Jonathan Ka­plan

What you can ex­pect from Nigel Owens, the man tak­ing charge of to­mor­row’s semi-fi­nal

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup - Free flow­ing: Ref­eree Nigel Owens likes play­ers to ex­press them­selves

Nigel is the pre-em­i­nent ref­eree of his era. That is borne out not just by the fact that he has done more Tests than any­one else, but also by the fact that he gen­er­ally pro­duces bet­ter spec­ta­cles than any­one else.

He has a phi­los­o­phy of how he likes the game to be played and he has been able to merge that out­look with the abil­ity to make quick and ac­cu­rate de­ci­sions within the frame­work of the law. That in it­self is risky and re­quires a spe­cial skill set.

I think that he may have slipped off the top in some peo­ple’s eyes in terms of his ac­cu­racy re­cently, but I rate him in the top few and he has per­formed well in this tour­na­ment, so this ap­point­ment is well de­served.

What does he like?

A good spec­ta­cle. En­sur­ing that hap­pens is not easy. He errs on the side of the player rather than the law – he is not overly fussy and will al­low a con­test in most ar­eas of the game. If a de­ci­sion is bor­der­line the player will al­most al­ways get the ben­e­fit of the doubt and he is happy to wear the con­se­quences of his call. He re­quires the play­ers to buy into his phi­los­o­phy – if you trust him to be ac­cu­rate then he will give you li­cence to ex­press your­self.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that Nigel has ref­er­eed three of my top 10 Tests of all time – New Zealand’s 24-22 win over Ire­land in Dublin in 2013, the All Blacks’ 38-27 win at Ellis Park, Jo­han­nes­burg, against the Spring­boks that same year and their 35-29 win over Aus­tralia in Dunedin in 2017.

You may no­tice that New Zealand were in­volved in all three of those games and I do think the way Nigel ref­er­ees suits the All Blacks’ style of play.

What he doesn’t like

Blow­ing his whis­tle too much, though he is not afraid to make big de­ci­sions. We saw that with To­mas La­vanini’s red card in the Eng­lan­dar­gentina game: Nigel’s in­stinct was to play on, but when he saw a re­play he re­alised that the lock had to go.

But Nigel prefers to in­ter­act rather than be dog­matic, al­though ac­cu­racy is still vi­tal for him. He ref­er­eed the fi­nal four years ago and could do so again if Wales are not there. That said, I be­lieve of­fi­cials should only do one fi­nal, so I would pick Wayne Barnes if Eng­land lose.

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