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  • RWC 2015 Referee - Nigel Owens


    image ©PAWire*

    Nigel Owens was born on the 18 June 1971 and raised in Mynyddcerrig; a small traditional Welsh speaking village approximately 12 miles from Carmarthen, in south west Wales. As a keen sportsman, Owens played Full Back for the school rugby team, but after missing a crucial match-winning conversion, the teacher made a tongue in cheek comment that he should consider becoming a referee. It was a half joking throw away comment which could have been instantly forgotten, but by happy coincidence it would change his life, because Owens thought to himself “Why not?’ Owens first started refereeing rugby matches when he was still in school, after which he became a Lab technician at Welsh speaking Ysgol Gyfun Maes Yr Yrfa, Cefneithin, (incidentally the same rugby orientated village where Carwyn James and Barry John had grown up) but still kept refereeing.

    Owens talent became widely recognised in the refereeing world, and he took charge of his first Test in 2005 at Osaka, when Japan played Ireland. He officiated at the Argentina v Samoa Test the same year, and refereed 2 other Tests the year after. Owens made his World Cup debut in Lyon, France in September 2007 when (as the only Welsh referee at the tournament) he officiated in the Argentina v Georgia match. He was also the only Welsh referee at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and at the age of 44 will once again be the only Welsh referee at this years World Cup.

    The previous record for Test appearances by a Welsh referee had been held by the inimitable Derek Bevan (44 Tests – including 4 Rugby World Cups) but in 2013 Nigel Owens took the record with his 45th Test while officiating the clash between New Zealand and France. Going into this World Cup, he currently has 60 international Tests under his belt.

    He is one of only two referees to be appointed to referee two consecutive Heineken Cup finals (the other being England's Chris White); Munster v Toulouse at the Millennium Stadium in 2008, and Leicester Tigers v Leinster at Murrayfield in 2009. He has since taken charge of a third final, Leinster v Ulster in Twickenham 2012. This is in addition to two Amlin finals gives Owens a total of 5 European Finals making him the most capped referee in European competition.

    With such an obvious success on the field, it is easy to think that life had always been good, but in his younger days he wrestled with the secret that he was gay, and worried about how he would cope in the macho rugby world and perhaps how he would be perceived in a strongly traditional small Welsh village, at the age of 26 during a “very difficult time” Nigel Owens tried to take his own life, but luckily for the rugby world, the Police helicopter found him with just 20 minutes to spare. For 9 years Owens hid the personal torment of why he had tried to commit suicide, but in May 2007 he publicly came out as gay in an interview with Wales on Sunday. He admits it was a difficult decision to make, but “It was great to realise it made no difference to your family and friends and the people in rugby. It was like being born again”. If anything, in a more tolerant world, Owens popularity has grown since he publicly came out.

    Outside his on-field obligations, Nigel Owens has a number of interests including being patron of the Wooden Spoon Society rugby charity and patron of Bullies Out charity – in addition to this Owens was also president of the Wales Federation of Young Farmers Clubs in 2010. On TV, he is one of the presenters on a Welsh language TV chat show (along with Jonathan Davies) and has his own quiz programme on S4C. As you can imagine, Owens is also a very entertaining after dinner speaker.

    Despite his obvious success and busy schedule, Owens still keeps his feet on the ground and often referees youngsters and still presides over the monthly local District Referees society.

    *Image is reproduced for referee education only, all rights remain with the owner.
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. MrQeu's Avatar
      MrQeu -
      I would have started the article with "you may have never met him before but..."
    1. Richard smith's Avatar
      Richard smith -
      Have great memories of watching Nigel referee a European cup Quarter final a few years back.. the game was Edinburgh V Toulouse at Murrayfield.
      I spent 80 minutes watching the referee
    1. L'irlandais's Avatar
      L'irlandais -
      Another quiet word from Nigel Owens, this time to Simon Zebo.
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      I don't like this, it seems to me it's beyond the referee's power.

      Zebo was taken by surprise, the next player might refuse to apologise, what would NO do then?
    1. Flish's Avatar
      Flish -
      Is it beyond the refs power? If players are acting in any way that’s liable to create a negative reaction or future flash point in the game and you have an opportunity to manage it then I say go for it, makes your life easier, makes the game better
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flish View Post
      Is it beyond the refs power? If players are acting in any way that’s liable to create a negative reaction or future flash point in the game and you have an opportunity to manage it then I say go for it, makes your life easier, makes the game better
      Normally manage it means telling them don't do it again. Then - if they do it again - you PK them


      In this case he ordered Zebo to make an apology.
      1 - the ref doesn't have the power to force him to do this
      2 - so, then, what's he going to do if Zebo says no he'd rather not ? Disallow the try?
    1. Flish's Avatar
      Flish -
      *shrug* then he risks being in the refs bad books the rest of the game. I gave two players a lecture, told them to stop dicking about off the ball and suggested they shake hands and crack on today, it worked, no stronger sanctions needed, I didn’t have the power to make them do it, but they knew they were in the wrong and that it was the right thing to do, and in the overall spirit of that game. They could have refused, but chose not to.
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      I think that telling players to shake hands, or telling players to apologise is treating them as children.
      You may get away with it, but they won't like you for it, and I don't think that's a safe way of 'managing it', it could backfire
    1. Flish's Avatar
      Flish -
      They were acting like children, and they knew it - judge the situation in front of you on it’s merits, there are times it’ll work and times it won’t, don’t think NO was wrong in this case, and someone needs to police the respect on the pitch as these players are supposed to be an example to others, ie the children.
    1. chbg's Avatar
      chbg -
      Core Values include Respect, about which NO feels strongly:

      https://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/...-call-15297331
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      I agree with core values
      But I think referee should confine themselves to the sanctions in the law book .. ie warning , PK , YC , RC
    1. Treadmore's Avatar
      Treadmore -
      Quote Originally Posted by crossref View Post
      I agree with core values
      But I think referee should confine themselves to the sanctions in the law book .. ie warning , PK , YC , RC
      From the law book:
      It is through discipline, control and mutual respect that the spirit of the game flourishes and, in the context of a game as physically challenging as rugby, these are the qualities which forge the fellowship and sense of fair play so essential to the game’s ongoing success and survival.


      from Law 9 under Misconduct:

      27. A player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship.

      28. Players must respect the authority of the referee. They must not dispute the referee’s decisions. They must stop playing immediately when the referee blows the whistle to stop play.
      Sanction: Penalty.


    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      I agree with all that treadmore
      The sanction for bad sportsmanship and similar is a PK . A referee doesn't have the power to compel a player to make an apology . .. any more than he could make him do 30 press ups, or a lap round the pitch, or drink a dirty pint

      The sanctions are : warning , PK, YC , RC
      In the zebo case a warning would be correct
    1. SimonSmith's Avatar
      SimonSmith -
      You're overworrying it. Some refs can get away with it - NO is clearly one of them. he has enough chips in the bank to cash in a few.

      A team you've seen twice in three years? High Risk Maneuver.
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      "World Rugby's chief executive Brett Gopser has described the Welsh referee's dressing down of Simon Zebo as a 'thoughtful and well managed intervention"

      I think "high risk manoeuvre" is closer to the mark.

      https://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/...raise-15308893
    1. didds's Avatar
      didds -
      Quote Originally Posted by crossref View Post
      I think that telling players to shake hands, or telling players to apologise is treating them as children.
      You may get away with it, but they won't like you for it, and I don't think that's a safe way of 'managing it', it could backfire
      Totally agree. Its not "right" whatever t5eh age either - even if it IS children.

      Mutual respect comes form earning respect - not be being forced to shake hands with somebody that at that moment in time you dont; have any for.

      And what as a ref if you are going to do if the player(s) refuse? card them for ref abuse ie not following your instruction? Bet that will go far at disciplinary...

      didds
    1. Taff's Avatar
      Taff -
      Quote Originally Posted by didds View Post
      ... And what as a ref if you are going to do if the player(s) refuse? card them for ref abuse ie not following your instruction?
      If they refused to apologise, I wouldn't have thought there was much a Ref can do. But the offender could well find himself on the wrong side of a 50/50 decision.

      I have a thing about teams clapping each other off the pitch - it always happened in my day. When I've politely said to teams "You clapping them off boys?" I have to come across a team that has refused. Sometimes teams / players just need a gentle nudge to do the right thing; and if the Referee isn't going to be the one giving the nudge, who will?
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      Quote Originally Posted by Taff View Post
      If they refused to apologise, I wouldn't have thought there was much a Ref can do. But the offender could well find himself on the wrong side of a 50/50 decision.
      I hope you don't mean that , this would be to lose all your integrity .
    1. didds's Avatar
      didds -
      Is this a new thing, not clapping the oppo? Ive not been involved in a game (40+ years) where it never happened, even in the most bad tempered of games!

      didds
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      Quote Originally Posted by didds View Post
      Is this a new thing, not clapping the oppo? Ive not been involved in a game (40+ years) where it never happened, even in the most bad tempered of games!

      didds
      Same for me
      Well, kids have to be taught at some point, so I have seen coaches having to prompt, but other than that
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