Rolland to retire from refereeing
Alain Rolland, one of the top referees in the world, has announced his retirement at the end of the current season.
He is 47 years of age.
Rolland is rare amongst referees – an international player who became an international referee. He played scrumhalf three times for Ireland and then took up refereeing. He has refereed many Test matches. The pinnacle would probably be regarded as the World Cup Final in 2–7. In all he refereed at three successive World Cups – 2003, 2007 and 2011.
The Dublin-born son of a French father and an Irish mother, as his names suggest – Alain Colm Pierre Rolland – he was remarkably bilingual, which made him particularly popular with French sides, as had been the case with John West many years before him.
Rolland is a stock-broker and never a full-time referee. He has cited his job and his family as reasons for his retirement, saying: "I am starting a new job and I want to spend more time with Lizzie and our young family who have been very patient. I cannot thank them enough for their total support over such a long time."
Rolland has had a long and noble career in rugby. A scrumhalf, schooled at the great rugby school Blackrock, he played club rugby for them, then 40 times for Leinster and three times for Ireland. He also played for Moseley, ending at the time when professional rugby started.
Wanting to stay in the game, he contacted Owen Doyle, Ireland's refereeing boss. “When we first sat down to chat about my taking up refereeing I don't think either of us had a clue as to where it would go, although there were definite goals! I would certainly advise those coming towards the end of their playing career to have that same conversation."
In 2001 Rolland refereed his first Test (Wales vs Romania) and then was appointed to a Six Nations match. He has refereed many, many matches wince then – at three World Cups, in the Six Nations and the Tri-Nations, and the Heineken Cup but just lately he has had to withdraw because of injury.
In 2007 he refereed the Final of the Rugby World Cup when South Africa beat England and in 2011 he was an assistant referee to Craig Joubert when New Zealand beat France.
In 2007 Wayne Barnes incurred the wrath of the whole of New Zealand with his refereeing of their match with France but in 2011 outcries became louder. Bryce Lawrence was castigated by South Africans to the extent that he would not go to South Africa for Super Rugby matches, Craig Joubert annoyed the French when they lost the Final and Rolland had Welsh voices rained in protest when he sent their captain, Sam Warburton off for a tip tackle. It may just be becoming a trend.
Rolland, mercifully, leaves refereeing a happy man. “I will finish without one ounce of regret, and my hope is that all present and future international referees will enjoy it as much."
In expressing his gratitude of his great career, Rolland has thanked his family, Owen Doyle "who has guided and coached me throughout my career", the Irish RFU and the IRB "who have appointed me to so many wonderful and exciting matches all over the world".
Rolland discussed his retirement with Doyle, as he had discussed taking up refereeing with him. Doyle said:“He always feels it a huge honour to be involved, and to do his best to facilitate the game for the players courteously and with an even hand.
“For those who will follow he is the complete role model. We will be very sorry to lose him and, at the same time, absolutely respect his decision and cannot thank him enough for his extraordinary contribution.”
IRFU President Pat Fitzgerald said: “From the perspective of the Union it has always been a great feather in our cap to have Alain officiating across the world to such a high level over such a long period.
“He will retire right at the top and will leave a great legacy for the next generation of referees.”