Three of Ireland’s top referees, Alan Lewis, Alain Rolland and Simon McDowell, have been appointed to officiate at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced a panel of 12 referees and 13 touch judges for the Rugby World Cup which kicks off on September 7.
Leinster Branch referees Alan Lewis and Alain Rolland both refereed at the 2003 World Cup in Australia, with Rolland, who only made his Test debut as a referee two years earlier, taking charge of the England-Wales quarter-final in Brisbane.
Former cricket international Lewis was a touch judge at the 1999 World Cup, where his first appointment was the Fiji-Namibia clash in Beziers.
Both Lewis and Rolland have been included on the referee panel for this year’s World Cup, while Ulster’s Simon McDowell, who is set for his first World Cup involvement, is a member of the touch judge panel for the tournament.
McDowell, who played for NIFC (now Belfast Harlequins) until an injury cut short his playing career, has risen steadily up the ranks since taking up refereeing in 1992. He has World Cup experience at Under-19 and Under-21 level and was the man in the middle for last September’s Women’s Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and England in Edmonton.
The IRB’s Match Official Selection Committee met in Dublin in Monday to review performances of the Elite Referee Panel and make their selections for the 2007 World Cup. Following the review, the composition of the referee and touch judge panels were determined for the pool stages of the tournament.
England’s Tony Spreadbury will kick-off the tournament when he takes charge of the opening fixture between hosts France and Argentina at the Stade de France.
In total, seven nations are represented within the panel with three referees – Wayne Barnes (England), Nigel Owens (Wales) and Marius Jonker (South Africa) – to make their Rugby World Cup debuts in France, while Stuart Dickinson, Paul Honiss, Jonathan Kaplan, Steve Walsh and Chris White will each be attending their third World Cup tournament.
From the quarter-finals onwards the referees will act as both referees and touch judges.
“The IRB Match Official Selection Committee was delighted by the standard of match officials available for selection for Rugby World Cup 2007,” said IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien.
“While inevitably there are those who are unlucky to miss out on selection, it is really exciting to see the likes of Wayne Barnes, Nigel Owens and Marius Jonker all included within a World Cup referees panel for the first time on merit.”
One member of the Elite Referee panel not included in the panel of 12 RWC referees is Ireland’s Donal Courtney, who, on Thursday, announced his retirement from international refereeing to concentrate on business interests.
“It is a blow to lose an official of Donal’s considerable experience, but we fully understand his reasons to stand down. He has been an excellent ambassador for the IRB and for international refereeing and I would like to thank him for his considerable contribution and wish him all the best for the future,” added O’Brien.
2007 RUGBY WORLD CUP – IRISH REFEREE APPOINTMENTS:
Friday, September 7 – Pool D: France v Argentina, Paris (Stade de France), Alain Rolland (Ireland) (fourth official)
Saturday, September 8 – Pool B: Australia v Japan, Lyon, Alan Lewis (Ireland) (referee)
Sunday, September 9 – Pool B: Wales v Canada, Nantes, Alain Rolland (Ireland) (referee); Simon McDowell (Ireland) (touch judge)
Sunday, September 9 – Pool C: Scotland v Portugal, St Etienne, Alan Lewis (Ireland) (fourth official)
Tuesday, September 11 – Pool D: Argentina v Georgia, Lyon, Simon McDowell (Ireland) (touch judge); Alan Lewis (Ireland) (fourth official)
Wednesday, September 12 – Pool C: Italy v Romania, Marseille, Alain Rolland (Ireland) (fourth official)
Friday, September 14 – Pool A: England v South Africa, Paris (Stade de France), Simon McDowell (Ireland) (TMO)
Sunday, September 16 – Pool D: France v Namibia, Toulouse, Alain Rolland (Ireland) (referee); Simon McDowell (Ireland) (TMO)
Saturday, September 22 – Pool A: England v Samoa, Nantes, Alan Lewis (Ireland) (referee); Alain Rolland (Ireland) (touch judge)
Saturday, September 22 – Pool D: Argentina v Namibia, Marseille, Simon McDowell (Ireland) (touch judge)
Tuesday, September 25 – Pool B: Canada v Japan, Bordeaux, Alain Rolland (Ireland) (fourth official)
Tuesday, September 25 – Pool C: Romania v Portugal, Toulouse, Simon McDowell (Ireland) (touch judge)
Wednesday, September 26 – Pool D: Georgia v Namibia, Lens, Alan Lewis (Ireland) (fourth official)
Friday, September 28 – Pool A: England v Tonga, Paris (Parc des Princes), Alain Rolland (Ireland) (referee)
Saturday, September 29 – Pool B: Wales v Fiji, Nantes, Simon McDowell (Ireland) (touch judge); Alain Rolland (Ireland) (fourth official)
Sunday, September 30 – Pool D: France v Georgia, Marseille, Alan Lewis (Ireland) (referee)