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Nigel Owens lauded for refusing to put up with loophole that's annoyed so many fans

By Ian Cameron
Nigel Owens and Teddy Iribaren (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

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Referee Nigel Owens has been widely praised for cracking down on Racing 92 for the practice of caterpillar rucking, the rugby craze that has infuriated many viewers over the course of the last 12 months.

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The tactic sees players form an elongated ruck ‘conga line’, one player holding on to next, shielding scrum-halves from the pressure of defending players by effectively seeing them kick freely from upwards of 10 metres from the defensive offside line.

Owens was not tolerating the practice today during Saracens and Racing 92 semi-final match in the La Defence Arena. Owens repeatedly called ‘use it’, most notably when awarding a 5-metre scrum to Saracens after twice warning Teddy Iribaren to ‘use’ the ball.

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“He’s absolutely right,” noted BT’s Ben Kay. “It’s the first time I’ve seen that. It was the slowest ruck I have ever seen. The Racing fans won’t be happy but I think rugby fans will be happy.”

The use warning may be the best way to combat the technique, which has infuriated a lot of fans who see it as an abuse of rugby law. An egregious example of the caterpillar rucking technique was used by Exeter Chiefs in 2019.

A year later and Owens was widely praised online for refusing to tolerate it.

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One Twitter follower didn’t agree, posting: “Nigel Owens asks people to respect the Welsh language but as a member of The British Empire refuses to use a word of French in France so shouts out ‘use it’ in English to cheat and give SAR a 5m scrum.”

Owens replied in kind: “Seriously? You think any players don’t know what use it is? I look forward to you asking all refs to learn welsh, Italian, Fijian, South African, Spanish, Georgian, Russian, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic Tongan, Samoan Japanese. Now jog on”

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Nigel Owens lauded for refusing to put up with loophole that's annoyed so many fans

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