Rugby referee Nigel Owens has revealed the time All Blacks legend Sean Fitzpatrick told top Welsh official Derek Bevan to “f*** off” during a historic loss to France in 1994.
France were on the verge of a series sweep against the All Blacks after winning the first test in Christchurch 22-8, and were trailing in Auckland 20-16 before a sensational length of the field try from Jean-Luc Sadourny sealed a famous victory for Les Bleus.
Speaking on the House of Rugby podcast, Owens spoke about how the game turned on its head for the All Blacks.
“New Zealand had been in control all game and Grant Fox had kicked to the corner late on,” Owens said.
“They were now going to win this game – the series would be drawn – and France were never going to get their first series win in New Zealand.
“There’s a lineout, France win the ball and run it from behind their own posts.
“Philippe Saint-Andre starts it and France score this brilliant, brilliant try that’s out of this world.
“New Zealand have now lost the series and Sean Fitzpatrick is captain.
“He’s totally deflated after being in control all game, they’ve lost it.”
The try that put France 23-20 up – along with some referee banter – was ultimately what led to All Blacks captain Fitzpatrick’s spray at Bevan.
“Derek has given the try beneath the sticks and as he’s walking back, Fitzpatrick and a few forwards are trudging back to get behind the posts for the conversion,” fellow Welsh referee Owens said.
“As Derek passes Fitzpatrick, he says to him ‘what a wonderful try that was’.
“Fitzpatrick turns to Derek and says ‘why don’t you just f**k off Bevan’.
“You couldn’t say that now, but back then you could.”
Bevan, a colourful and expressive referee who would become Owens’ mentor, officiated at four World Cups including the 1991 final.
Owens himself has been regarded as one of the best referees in the game and has officiated a record 98 tests including the 2015 World Cup final, which the All Blacks won.
Owens has also gained a reputation for speaking out on social justice and his sense of humour on and off the field.
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