Rugby World thought it best to even the score and get the perspective from the other side of the fence. We caught up with ‘Cinderella’ [you’ll see] about embarrassing moments, getting in the way and his favourite joke.
RUGBY WORLD: Do the ELVs make the game easier to referee?
ALAIN ROLLAND: I don’t think there’s a major shift. There are some new things to be aware of, but they haven’t had a significant impact. One area that’s got easier is the lineout. We have a tough job as it is and it’s not any more difficult than it was.
RW: What’s the best thing about being a referee?
AR: Well, I’m an ex-player and I played at Test level, so it’s a way to be very much involved with the game I love.
RW: Is it the same buzz as playing?
AR: It’s a different buzz but a good one. You’re not in a dressing room with 20 other guys, there are only four of you. So you’re not banging your head against the wall; it’s more of a calming influence.
RW: What’s been the best moment of your refereeing career so far?
AR: The World Cup final. It doesn’t get bigger than that: refereeing the biggest game on the planet in rugby terms.
RW: What’s your pre-match routine?
AR: If I’m doing a night game, I have to sleep for a few hours in the afternoon or I’d be asleep by half-time. One of my nicknames is Cinderella because I’m rarely up after midnight – I like my kip! Then we usually get to the game an hour and a half before kick-off.
At the bottom of a ruck, Tyra Banks and Daft purchases…
RW: What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or heard on the pitch?
AR: Once or twice I’ve been wired up and got caught up in the game. In the 2004 Heineken Cup final, there was a humungous hit on one of the Wasps players by one of the Maka brothers from Toulouse. It was a great tackle, he smashed him, cut him in half and I went, ‘Jesus, that’s got to hurt’. I said it out loud and everybody heard it over the mike!
RW: Any embarrassing moments?
AR: I got caught at the bottom of a ruck in a Leicester-Stade Français game. I had about 15 players on top of me and I couldn’t get to my whistle for ages to blow it! They gave me a hand up afterwards. They showed a clip of that at the recent referees’ conference and there was a bit of banter.
RW: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
AR: To be invisible. You’ll have to use your imagination for what I’d do!
RW: What’s your favourite joke?
AR: I don’t really have a joke, but there’s a great story about one of the English officials, Kirky. He was having a heart attack so he’s in the hospital and the only way he can get through the panic is with comedy, so he says to the nurse: ‘Am I going to be alright?’ ‘Of course you are, love, you’ll be fine.’ ‘Will I be able to go home?’ ‘Of course, love.’ ‘Will I be able to play the piano?’ ‘Of course.’ ‘Great. I wasn’t able to play it before!’ I was at Northampton when he told me. I don’t know how I refereed the game afterwards. It’s always made me laugh.
RW: Who would you like to be trapped in a lift with?
AR: Tyra Banks. She’s my No 1. It’s my wife’s fault because she always watches America’s Next Top Model!
RW: If your house was on fire, what three things would you save?
AR: I’d have to have my 42in plasma TV and everything that went with it as well, surround sound etc. I’m a gadget head.
RW: What’s the daftest thing you’ve ever bought?
AR: I bought an MP3 player three years ago and it’s still in the box! I’ve never figured out how to work the thing. Maybe I’ll give it to my nine-year-old – he knows more about computers than me!
Check out the Heineken Cup Final Alain was talking about…