The man in charge of the World Cup final at the Stade de France tomorrow night knows a referee's place in the scheme of things.
"You want to come in, do a game and get out, with the spectators asking, 'By the way, who was that?'" says Alain Rolland. "The best referees are the ones you don't notice."
The 41-year-old Irishman of French extraction – full name Alain Colm Pierre Rolland – is unusual in that he is a former international, having won three caps and spending his club and provincial career with Blackrock College in Dublin and Leinster.
He took up the whistle in 1998, his first Test as a referee coming in September 2001, when Wales beat Romania 81-9 at the Millennium Stadium. He made his Six Nations debut six months later when France beat Scotland at Murrayfield.
Widely acknowledged as one of the best officials in the game, Rolland combines roles as a full-time referee and mortgage broker in Dublin. His fluency in French helped him to earn rave reviews in some highly charged Heineken Cup ties and, although there was some criticism of how he handled the scrummaging in the England v Australia semi-final in this World Cup, it is likely that his overall display will overshadow his countrymen's.Reuse content