Tony Ward: Hats off to man in the middle Lacey
Given the week that's in it and all the excitement ahead of the Heineken Cup, it slipped a little bit under the radar but on the day Ireland run out at Lansdowne Road to take on the Pumas next month, former Shannon and Munster wing/full-back John Lacey will take charge of his first full international when France take on Samoa at the Stade de France.
As an admirer of anybody who takes up the whistle in any code, I am particularly in awe when former players go down that route and subsequently make it to the top.
The Clanwilliam man accumulated five Munster League and seven Munster Cup medals with Shannon as well as representing Munster in the Heineken Cup, crossing for four tries in the process.
Put simply, Lacey, who began his refereeing career in 2007, was pushed into doing so by dedicated Richmond and Munster administrator Gerry Moore when the appointed match official failed to turn up for a St Munchin's versus Christians Junior Cup tie that year.
Far be it for me to suggest that in order to be a top referee you need to have played the game at representative level, but certainly when a Lacey or an Alain Rolland come along, you get a feel for and appreciation of the game over and above the ordinary.
I wish John well in his maiden Test run and hope he, like Rolland, will be a role model for other former players to follow suit as the stock of Irish refereeing on the global stage goes up and up.
Oh and forgive me mentioning it, but he has represented Ireland as a player in a thing called Sevens!