Ireland’s Alain Rolland will have the honour of refereeing the 2007 Rugby World Cup final at Stade de France on Saturday, October 20, the International Rugby Board have confirmed this evening.
Rolland, the former Leinster and Ireland scrum half, will make history by becoming the first Irishman to referee a Rugby World Cup final.
The previous final referees were: 1987 – Kerry Fitzgerald (Australia); 1991 – Derek Bevan (Wales); 1995 – Ed Morrison (England); 1999 – Andre Watson (South Africa); 2003 – Andre Watson (South Africa).
The Dublin-born mortgage broker has refereed four games at the 2007 tournament already – the Wales v Canada, France v Namibia and England v Tonga games in the pool stages, as well as last Saturday’s quarter-final between England and Australia in Marseille.
This is Rolland’s second World Cup – he was involved at the 2003 tournament. His most high profile appointment four years ago was the quarter-final clash of England and Wales.
The closest an Irish official previously came to refereeing a World Cup final was back in 1991 when Ulster’s Stephen Hilditch was chosen to be the man in the middle for that year’s third-fourth place play-off between New Zealand and Scotland.
Hilditch, who is on assessor duty at the current World Cup, also refereed the England-New Zealand semi-final at the 1995 tournament.
Congratulations to Alain on his appointment for the final, and to his colleague, Alan Lewis who, after refereeing yesterday’s quarter-final tie between South Africa and Fiji, has been selected as one of the touch judges for next Sunday’s South Africa-Argentina semi-final in Paris.
ALAIN ROLLAND (IRELAND):
Full name: Alain Colm Pierre Rolland
Born: Dublin, August 22, 1966
First Test: Wales v Romania on September 19, 2001
Latest Test: England v Australia on October 6, 2007
Number of Tests: 30
World Cup experience: 2003 and 2007. He has refereed seven World Cup matches to date.
Trivia: Rolland won the first of his three caps for Ireland in their 20-18 defeat of Argentina at Lansdowne Road on October 27, 1990. He also appeared as a replacement against the United States in 1994 and Italy the following year. At club level, he played for Blackrock College and also made 40 appearances for Leinster.
Rolland retired as a player when the professional era began to dawn and turned to refereeing instead with his first Test appointment coming on September 19, 2001 when Wales beat Romania 81-9 at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Born in Dublin with a French father, he made his Six Nations debut six months later when France beat Scotland 22-10 at Murrayfield with his Tri-Nations bow coming in July 2003 with New Zealand’s record 52-16 defeat of South Africa.
Meanwhile, the officials for the two World Cup semi-finals next weekend have also been announced. South Africa’s Jonathan Kaplan will take charge of Saturday’s semi-final between France and England, while Steve Walsh of New Zealand will referee Sunday’s second last-four match-up between South Africa and Argentina.
The referee for the third-fourth place play-off match on Friday, October 19, will be Paul Honiss of New Zealand.
England v France (semi-final – October 13)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Touch Judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand), Marius Jonker (South Africa)
4: Nigel Owen (Wales); 5: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Television Match Official: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
South Africa v Argentina (semi-final – October 14)
Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)
Touch Judges: Alan Lewis (Ireland), Chris White (England)
4: Joel Jutge (France); 5: Wayne Barnes (England)
Television Match Official: Tony Spreadbury (England)
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