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'Maybe four but at least three of them were deserved': Nigel Owens reviews the five Six Nations red cards and hands out end-of-tournament awards

By Liam Heagney

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Centurion Test referee Nigel Owens has delivered his verdict on the red mist that clouded the recent Guinness Six Nations, claiming that maybe four of the five red cards were deserved while also doling out various awards for the best haircut, the best celebration and so on.   

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Welsh official Owens has stepped back from the international arena having taken charge of his 100th Test match during last November’s Autumn Nations Cup. It left him watching the Six Nations unfold from the sidelines and the latest edition of his Whistle Watch video series in association with World Rugby had seen him review the glut of championship reds.

“Let’s get into some of the talking points from last week, the Finn Russell red card. What you can’t do as a ball carrier is you can’t lead with a forearm and raise it up into a player because if you raise a forearm and you make contact with the head or the neck directly then that will result in a red card,” he said. 

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“Now my humble opinion is Finn Russell was maybe a little bit unlucky here. The French player tackles Finn Russell upright which means Finn Russell, the dynamics of his handoff had to change. He has to lift his hand up to try and fend off the would-be tackler. In doing this he then gets the timing of it wrong.”

Russell’s red card was one of five across the 15-match championship, resulting in a total of 16-game bans – Peter O’Mahony three, Zander Fagerson four, Bundee Aki four, Paul Willemse two and Russell three. 

Owens hopes the message this collective punishment has sent out will improve the sport for everyone who plays it, not just at Test level. “This year’s Six Nations will be very memorable for us here in Wales but this year’s Six Nations will also be remembered for the most amount of red cards in the Guinness Six Nations tournament and I have to say that at least three of them, maybe four but at least three of them were correct decisions and deserved red cards. 

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“Now for the good of the game, for the future of the game and for player safety and all concerned from the very, very top at international level all the way down to our local grassroots community game, it’s important that we deal with acts of foul play that warrant red cards. Hopefully, it will do some good and will help change player behaviour on the field.”

Switching to a more jovial perspective, Owens handed out a series of novel awards. “Here we go, the best lid, the best haircut? Ellis Genge, Hamish Watson, Jonny Hill. Tough one to choose so I’ll leave you to decide that one. Let me know who you think had the best lid. 

“Best no try? Louis Rees-Zammit (vs France) for sure. Best referee ruck performance? Romain Poite, without a doubt. Head first into the ruck (Scotland vs Ireland). Best celebration? It has got to be Stuart Hogg in Paris on the weekend plus it also meant that the whole of Wales was celebrating as well.”

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'Maybe four but at least three of them were deserved': Nigel Owens reviews the five Six Nations red cards and hands out end-of-tournament awards

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