Rugby World Cup Final referee spends time in Georgian Camp


Recently retired Irish referee Alain Rolland spent five days in the Georgian rugby set last week in the lead up to the start of the Tbilisi Cup 2014.


The former scrum half, who made over 40 appearances for Leinster and also earned three caps for Ireland as a player, bowed out as man in the middle after the 2014 Heineken Cup final in Cardiff between Toulon and Saracens.


After 13 years and three Rugby World Cups, including the 2007 final, Rolland is now being utilised by the IRB to pass on his considerable experience and expertise to Tier two nations like Georgia and Romania.


The purpose of the trip to the Georgian capital was to assist the Georgian coaching staff and players from a refereeing perspective. Rolland said:

"I've been here doing contract work for the IRB, they have asked me to spend some time with the Georgian team and assist them in any way I can, with one eye on the World Cup in 2015, from an officiating point of view and to give them an overview of what it is going to be like to have tier one referees.

I've had a bit of time with them in camp, doing some stuff on field and also a presentation on the laws for what referees will be looking for."


The first time Alain Rolland officiated a Georgia match was back in 2002 for a World Cup qualifier between the Lelos and Russia. He also had the whistle for their 2003 Rugby World Cup match with Samoa in 2003 and eight years later in New Zealand for their pool encounter with Argentina.


"The Georgians are always strong up front, they have been known for having a very strong pack. Perhaps they have sometimes struggled in the back line to take advantage of that platform the pack have created. However, from what I have seen from the few days I have been here is there seems to be a good balance in the team. With professionalism the way it has gone and a lot of their players' playing in France although they are not here for this tournament, it has brought a different approach. They have caught up with the rest of the teams where they might have been lacking a decade ago from when I first refereed them."


Discipline has certainly been an issue the Georgians have struggled with in the past and are working hard to rectify. Rolland explains that the point has been touched on during his visit.


"It is certainly something we have spoken about this week. The teams know what they might be able to do and things they might be able to get away with at this level. When you step up to another level it more often than not won't be the case. It will only be when they experience it from an application point of view that they will realise it is real and they cannot get away with it."


The development of the Georgians over the last decade has been exceptional, and since New Zealand born Head Coach Milton Haig took over his side have run Argentina very close and claimed a hard fought win over Samoa in November 2013.


Rolland agrees that the nation has real potential going forward. "The Georgian Union have to work hard for their money and financials play a huge role in development. They have got three very good coaches at the helm with Milton as Head Coach, Didier looking after the forwards and Michael Bradley looking after the backs. They understand that if they want their players to improve they need to have the right coaching staff to be able to do that.

The facilities they have are very good.They have a purpose built centre where they do all their training. There has been a lot of money invested over the last few years and that can only help them to improve the quality of players coming through."


On completion of the Tbilisi Cup 2014 all eyes will be on an Autumn Test against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, a game the Georgian union is very excited about and another challenge ahead of the World Cup next year.


"They are using this tournament (Tbilisi Cup) as a development tool so they are giving the top players a rest with one eye on the World Cup, but they will have those players with them in November. They're a good side as they showed in Rugby World Cup 2011, they are strengthening all the time and have a great unity. They are all there to try and achieve and are putting in the hours to get better. They will be a good team and one to be reckoned with when the world Cup comes around."



Georgian time


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