Alain Rolland has stepped down as World Rugby's high performance match official manager ©World Rugby

Alain Rolland is to step down from his role as World Rugby's 15s high performance match official manager at the end of this month.

World Rugby thanked Rolland, who joined the organisation four years ago and oversaw the referees at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, for his contribution to the sport.

The worldwide body said the process to find Rolland's successor will be launched in due course.

The former Ireland international, who refereed the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, said he had stepped down to seek new challenges and spend more time with his family.

"It has been an enormous privilege to work with such an exceptional team of match officials and staff at World Rugby over the last four years," Rolland said.

"Collectively, we have always strived to improve, to be the best we can be, and I am very proud of what the match officials have achieved and grateful for their full support along the way."

The Irishman refereed the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup between South Africa and England ©Getty Images
The Irishman refereed the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup between South Africa and England ©Getty Images

Rolland added: "I also appreciated the relationship with the national team coaches based on mutual respect and open communication. 

"They, like us, want to see consistency and ultimately a better game, which has been evidenced through our workshops and joint role in assisting with ongoing law reviews.

"It has been a challenging but rewarding journey. 

"I have worked with some incredible people, but the time is right to dial back the travel, spend more time with my family and move forward with my new business ventures."

Rolland played three times for Ireland before he became a referee, officiating at three World Cups, including as an assistant in the 2011 final.

His last game as an international referee was the Six Nations match between Wales and France in February 2014.

"Alain has been at the forefront of raising the performance bar for match officials, adjusting to law interpretations and amendments and developing a strong team culture along the way, which was very apparent over the last four years culminating in Rugby World Cup," said World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.

"I would like to thank Alain for his dedicated contribution and he will be a tough act to follow, but he leaves behind a tremendous legacy and a superb group of match officials who, I am sure, will be in excellent shape at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand and Rugby World Cup 2023 in France."