From Irish international player to being the man in the middle. Alain Rolland has seen it all during his rugby career but he adds another string to his bow this Saturday when he takes charge of the 2007 Rugby World Cup final.
By day Alain is a mortgage broker with Cornmarket in Dublin but when he takes to the field, he is one of the world’s leading match officials and the 41-year-old is eagerly anticipating this weekend’s showpiece final between England and South Africa.
“It’s a tremendous honour that was bestowed on me and it doesn’t really get much bigger than next Saturday, so it is a tremendous honour for me indeed,” he told IrishRugby.ie.
The former Leinster and Ireland scrum half (pictured left) was appointed as Saturday’s referee by a selection panel and was delighted with the announcement, which was made on October 8, firstly to Rolland and Saturday’s other match officials and then to the media at a briefing 30 minutes later.
“We were told at the beginning that they were looking at referees who were on form during the course of the World Cup’s pool stages and quarter-finals and that the selection process would begin there. That’s the way it was done.
“They just made the announcement at five o’clock and they said that they had to go and tell the media and come a quarter to six we were allowed to phone family at that stage so there wasn’t an embargo on it for more than 15 or 20 minutes until they made the announcement to the media.”
The 2007 World Cup has been a busy one for Alain who took charge of Wales v Canada, France v Namibia and England v Tonga in the pool stages before whistling the quarter-final meeting of England and Australia at Marseille.
This is Alain’s second World Cup and he confessed that after the 2003 tournament in Australia, thoughts of refereeing the 2007 decider were foremost in his mind.
“I set a goal for myself at the end of the 2003 World Cup that I wanted to referee the 2007 World Cup Final. I had a four-year plan to try and succeed and thankfully I am delighted that it has come to fruition,” he admitted.
The Dublin native, whose father is French, will become the first Irish referee to take charge of the World Cup decider, following in the footsteps of officials from Australia, Wales, England and South Africa.
Reflecting on his performances at the tournament to date, he added: “I am very pleased. I believe that in all of my games I have done well. I have been in regular contact with Owen Doyle (IRFU Director of Referee Development) back in the IRFU after each of my games.
“I have even done analysis on them and looked at things that I have done well and things that I might have done differently. Overall I have been very pleased with how things have gone for me.”
Alain mixes his job in Dublin with a career as a referee but is happy with his current circumstances.
“I work full-time at home so, on that basis, I spend a lot of time doing work from the office when I come over here so that takes a couple of hours every day.
“I would train either in the morning or afternoon and try and take a bit of chill-out time. The days aren’t that long – most evenings we (the referees) do things together as a group. The time has been passing quite quickly.”
And in the lead up to Saturday’s game, Alain says that his build-up will not be much different to a regular Test match.
“The only difference is that I haven’t gone home this week – I have done in other weeks – because there have been a few engagements here. From that perspective there isn’t anything different.”
Saturday will be a big day in Alain’s life but he is keen to have as relaxing a day as possible.
“Because it is a night-time kick-off, I will have a leisurely morning and have lunch with the guys. At about 2.30pm I’ll go to bed and sleep until about 5.30pm.
“At 6pm I’ll have a team meeting with the guys in preparation for the match and then at 6.30pm we get a police escort to the stadium. We get to the stadium at seven o’clock and then we have a general protocol to follow.”
The role of turning full-time as a referee is not one which tempts the former Blackrock College player.
“Absolutely no way…as there isn’t any need to. I enjoy refereeing but there is no need for us to be full-time because there isn’t enough stuff to do. What would you do all day? You need to have the balance between work and everything else and that is working out well for me at the moment so there is no need to change that.”
He confesses that it has been hard to mix work and play but he is looking forward to taking a break from it all at Christmas.
“I’ve missed a few weeks from work but I have been commuting back and forth so I haven’t missed as many days as I would have had when I was in Australia (four years ago).
“I’m going away with the family for a week to Tenerife at Christmas so I’m looking forward to that.”
It is certainly going to be a well deserved break for Ireland’s first World Cup final referee.
Best of luck to Alain for the final from everyone in the IRFU and the Irish rugby community.
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