Francis Palmade has today received the IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service 2009 in association with Emirates Airline.
One of the finest referees of his generation, the Frenchman received the prestigious Award at the IRB High Performance Referees Conference in London on Tuesday in recognition of 40 years of outstanding service to the Game.
As an international referee, Palmade enjoyed a long and distinguished career, taking charge of 17 test matches between 1966 and 1986.
Palmade's service and dedication to the Game he loves continued when he hung up his boots. He went on to become an internationally renowned match official performance reviewer, serving on the international panel from 1995 to 1999, including performing the key role at Rugby World Cup 1999.
To this day, the 72-year-old continues to make a considerable contribution to the Game. Currently a performance reviewer in France, his devotion to officiating has been an inspiration to the next generation of match officials, both in his native France and worldwide.
Paying tribute to his fellow countryman, IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Francis Palmade set the standard for contemporary Referees by combining a professional approach to preparation and performance, whilst maintaining a true regard for the spirit of Rugby."
"He refereed with composure, accuracy and honesty and encouraged players to participate in the same way. Rugby is honoured and privileged that Francis has served the Game with dedication and passion for over 40 years."
The IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service is the fifth of the 13 coveted IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline to be presented in 2009.
In May, England captain Ollie Phillips was named IRB Sevens Player of the Year, while New Zealand captain Aaron Cruden was named IRB Junior Player of the Year in June. Australia's Debby Hodgkinson scooped the IRB Women's Personality of the Year in August and L'Aquila Rugby Club received the Spirit of Rugby award in October.
In a new format for the IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline, winners will be named throughout the year, culminating in the announcement of the prestigious IRB Player, Coach and Team of the Year in November.
2001 - Ed Morrison
2002 - Colin Hawke
2003 - Derek Bevan
2004 - Jim Fleming
2005 - Paddy O'Brien
2006 - Peter Marshall
2007 - Dick Byres
2008 - Andre Watson