Centurion Test match referee Nigel Owens has called on people to stop criticising Owen Farrell in the wake of last Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations defeat by England in Wales. The veteran official has also given advice on Maro Itoje, who conceded five penalties in the round three loss, not to change his risky style of play.   


Writing in his Daily Mail newspaper column about the latest happenings in the Six Nations, Owens explained he retains the utmost respect for Farrell who has come under scrutiny for his dealing with referees as the England captain.  

“People need to stop having a go at Owen Farrell,” wrote Owens. “I can only speak from my own experience of refereeing him and, when I did, he was an excellent captain to deal with. I have a huge amount of respect for him as a player and a person. He always knew where the line was with me. I would say to him that he could always come and talk to me as long as it was at the right time and in the right tone and he always did that.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer
Eddie Jones reacts following England’s defeat to Wales last Saturday

“There are a lot of other captains who are in the referee’s ear. It is the captain’s job to challenge the referee if he feels his side is getting hard done by, if he feels they are being punished at the offside line but the opposition aren’t. What is important is that it is done in the right manner.

“Owen always did that with me. I have seen other games where he has been in the referee’s ear at the wrong times and that he may need to address. That is also down to the referee to deal with it and stop it happening.”



Switching to Itoje, whose indiscipline was a contributory factor in the latest England loss, Owens reasoned: “Maro Itoje is someone who plays right on the edge. That is what makes him such a great player. He must be so difficult to play against but he is also difficult to referee and I mean that with the utmost respect. He plays with passion and on the line.

“It is difficult to tell Itoje not to bring the same confrontation and aggression to the game that he usually does, even after giving away five penalties against Wales. It would take away from his game. You don’t want him to change the way he plays but he needs to pick and choose when he gambles on the situation and when he doesn’t. And understand better those moments when you are under pressure and knowing when, if you take a risk and get it wrong, you will land your team in real trouble.”

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now