Test rugby’s most experienced referee Nigel Owens recently revealed what the biggest regret of his career has been.
Speaking to Christina, Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson on RugbyPass Offload, the Welshman retold the story of the school match he refereed in 2007 that he has rued ever since.
Owens became the first person to referee 100 Test matches in autumn and retired from the international game shortly after, but said this match changed his approach for the rest of his career.
“When you start refereeing, you’ve got to understand you’re not going to go out on the field and not make a mistake, it’s impossible,” he said.
“It’s impossible to referee a game of rugby without making a mistake. I’ve come close a few times, but I haven’t ever managed.
“You can’t do it. So there are games where I’ve reviewed my own performance and thought ‘how the hell did I get that wrong,’ or ‘that was a tough call,’ and ‘that could have gone either way.’
“There are games when I look back and think ‘I should have got that right’ or or ‘why did I not see that.’
“I think the one that stands out for me is, I did Leinster against Wasps European quarter-final in my first knockout game in Europe back in 2007. It was a brilliant game of rugby, no issues, great game of rugby, everybody enjoying it, nobody talking about the referee, I get a good mark in my first knockout big game and I’m really pleased with how it went. Then on the Wednesday, I was reffing my old school against another local school in the Welsh Schools Cup and I just turned up to this game cock of the walk. I’d just reffed a quarter-final, and I was s***. I was absolutely terrible.
“I was letting too many things go, I was getting things wrong because I wasn’t focusing or working hard on my performance. I ended up sending a player off because of my fault. Because I had let so many things go, the game became I mess, he made some mistakes then he got frustrated with me then I sent him off, which was my fault.
Legendary Referee @Nigelrefowens , discusses the best atmospheres he has experienced throughout his career.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 25, 2021
“After the game, this old guy came up to me and he said ‘Nigel, I think you’re a brilliant referee, and you were brilliant on Saturday, but just remember, whatever game you referee, the players will always expect the same performance from you.’ I thought to myself ‘what right do I have to turn up here and think this game is below me?’ And from that day on I made sure every single game I refereed, no matter what it is, I’ve given it my best. I’ve treated it like a Test match or a cup final.
“The biggest regret was sending that player off when it was my fault he was sent off.”
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