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Nigel Owens names the ex-Wales player he reckons could be a referee

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Legendary referee Nigel Owens has named the recently retired Wales international that he reckons can stay involved in rugby – as a referee. Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb were all selected by Warren Gatland on May 1 in the 54-strong squad to prepare for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France, but all three have since retired from international rugby rather than commit to the demands of a campaign that starts in Bordeaux against Fiji on September 10.

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It was November 2020 when Owens made his own Test rugby departure, exciting at the top in the Autumn Nations Series with 100 appearances to his name, and he used his latest walesonline.co.uk to pay tribute to all three departing Wales players.

“I’m sure they would have wanted to bow out as the fine players that they have been for years and not risk being remembered for the wrong reasons by going on for too long. It’s a mistake far too many make, in both playing and refereeing,” reckoned Owens.

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Going through the merits of the now former Test-playing Ospreys trio, the retired referee described Jones as “one of if not the greatest player to wear a Wales jersey”. However, he also referenced what the lock was like as a player to referee, recalling the warning he once had to issue in Ireland.

“There were a few times I had to remind him who the referee was for sure. I remember once, out in Munster for one of the Pro14 knockout games, I had to pull him aside and tell him: ‘Look Al, if you carry on like this, you’ll be sitting on the side for 10 minutes’. But he listened to me, said sorry and back he went with no fuss.”

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Tipuric, though, is the operator that Owens suggests could become a referee whenever he finishes up at the Ospreys. “Justin was another one who – and I mean this in a complimentary way – was very difficult to referee. But that is only because he was so good. One of those out-and-out opensides, he would always get in there over the ball, jackling for it.

“When you were in charge of a match that he was playing in, you knew you would have to be on the top of your game. He would always get in there amongst it, and you had to be sure you were making the right calls.

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“He also made his feelings known about decisions that were made. I remember pulling him and Dan Biggar over during one game and telling them both that when they did finish playing, they should take up refereeing as they were already doing a pretty good job of giving it a go!”

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J
Jon 3 hours ago
How Maro Itoje terrorised the All Blacks lineout

Yeah England were much smarter, they put their much vaster experience to use in both the scrum (bending/not taking hit) and lineout (Itoje early sacks) law vagaries. Really though, I know what is there, I’m more worried about Englands locks. We only got to see Itoje and Martin, right? Depth allround in the England camp was probably the difference in the series and the drop off when Itoje reached his minutes limit for the season (it was like the plug was pulled from the charger) was up there with keeping Sexton on the park in that quarter final. What happened there? You have a lot of watching hours experience with locks come blindsides Nick, especially with a typical Australian player make up, have you see a six the size of Barrett absolutely dominate the position and his opposition? I can easily see Scott, and even Martin for that matter, moving to the blindside and playing like Tadgh Beirne with the amount of top locks we have coming through to partner Patrick. Still with the English mindset, because despite running the best All Black team I’ve seen in a long time close, they do need to find improvement, and although I thought they had a lot of good performances from their 7’s (over the years), I really like the prospect of Cunningham-South in his 8 spot and Earl on the open. Can you see Martin as mobile enough to take over Lawes? I absolutely loved his aggression when Jordie ran upto him to try and grab the ball. That alone is enough reason for me to try him there.

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