Manu Tuilagi smashes Tom Williams

Top14 player imposter!

JDV smashed by Benoit August

The Northampton Saints 30m scrum!

Bastareaud huge hit on Rory Lamont

All Blacks skills - Pt 2 In the backyard

Trinh-Duc sets up Harinordoquy try

Wales vs England 1999

Greg Holmes great hit on Francois Louw

Friday, January 15, 2010

Nigel Owens - Behind the Whistle

Referee Nigel Owens suddenly found himself in the spotlight once again last month, as fellow Welshman Gareth Thomas announced to the media that he is gay. Owens himself came out the closet a few years back, and his career has since flourished.

Owens has been through a lot in his life, including steroid use, bulimia, and attempted suicide. These days, he's found happiness and is one of the top referees in world rugby.

While the stigma surrounding homosexuality in the sport still exists, for the most part Owens found that people have been supportive and have let him get on with doing his job.

"You do get the odd few who shout the odd things from the crowd - but most of that is still in good banter," he said. "I have been lucky. Everybody from supporters to players to coaches to administrators have all been very supportive.

"There are obviously people who may feel uncomfortable with it but they are very few and far between and you've got to respect the way they think about people as well."

While he was surprised at the support he received, he still feels it could have been a lot worse if he were a referee in another sporting code.

"I think it shows that, especially in Wales, how close a community rugby is. This is not against football (soccer) in any way because I like watching football.

"But I think when you think of spectators in football - if I was a football referee it would be more difficult to go and referee in football matches than it is in rugby matches."

Straight faced on the field but with a great sense of humour off it, Nigel Owens has come a long way and will no doubt continue to command respect for the manner in which he controls a rugby match.

This interesting feature allows us to get to know Owens a bit better and see that while to many he's still just 'that gay ref', he is in fact one of the more amusing characters of the modern game.

In a sport where we are traditionally critical of all referees, how does Owens weigh up in your opinion when compared to other international refs? And who do you think are the top 3 currently? We're interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Time: 05:18



  • Average ref. Sneaky alternative lifestyle ploy was done so he could stay in the game, I think. Would cause quite a stir in this new world if a "golden boy" was given the boot.

    Best refs: Jonathan Kaplan, Mark Lawrence and the drunk New Zealander, forget his name.

    By Anonymous Lance, at January 15, 2010 8:24 am  

  • I'd hardly call Owens "average".

    Mark Lawrence is probably one of the best, though, for sure. Owens can be a bit pedantic at times, but so can Kaplan. But both are pretty consistent, and consistency = fair.

    I don't think you get to be an IRB international referee by just being "average".

    By Anonymous flapjack, at January 15, 2010 9:04 am  

  • Also, I think you're referring to Steve Walsh - I had to look that one up.

    I was wondering what happened to that guy, I thought he was a pretty decent referee...had no idea he got canned for being drunk at a conference...isn't that what those things are for, anyways? ;)

    By Anonymous flapjack, at January 15, 2010 9:08 am  

  • "Best refs: Jonathan Kaplan"

    Funniest comment I've ever seen, the guy doesn't even know the rules!!

    You need to lay off the poker, it's damaging your brain.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 15, 2010 10:15 am  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Flooz, at January 15, 2010 10:53 am  

  • Personnaly, i don't like nigel owens. And it doesn't have a point with his sexuality or lifestyle.

    I find him a bit arrogant on a pitch. And i have always in memories 2008 H-cup final (munster vs toulouse), when he allowed munster "10 forward" to keep the ball during the last 20 minutes without intention to play !!! and without whistle their dives and ground fouls...

    Alain Rolland and Chris white are good refs

    By Blogger Flooz, at January 15, 2010 10:55 am  

  • From Heineken and International form id say best three are Rolland, Lewis and White. If youre talking about arrogant refs then Steve Walsh must be top of the list. He has fought with players, coaches and his own union. Now he has sneaked off to Australia and is in the reserve panel for the S14

    By Anonymous G, at January 15, 2010 11:54 am  

  • "Funniest comment I've ever seen, the guy doesn't even know the rules!!"

    You must live an exciting life.

    By Anonymous Lance, at January 15, 2010 12:18 pm  

  • Mark Lawrence is the best ref these days.

    Kaplan, Jonker, Craig Joubert are all top drawer SH refs, can't say I'm a fan of any of the NZ or Aus refs. Rolland and Lewis are the best of the NH crop, Chris White's decent too.

    But the gap between Lawrence and everyone else is wide.

    By Anonymous Edbok, at January 15, 2010 12:28 pm  

  • Steve Walsh struggled for a while with alcohol problems even allegedly turning up to referee's meetings under the influence of alcohol.
    He has since moved to Australia and is refereeing out of NSW. He has been voted ref of the year down there and there is a good chance that the might make it back to the international panel as an Aussie ref.

    By Blogger whatdidyousay, at January 15, 2010 12:32 pm  

  • the referee with white patch of hair, really can't remeber his name is probably the best

    By Anonymous rosh, at January 15, 2010 1:38 pm  

  • Paddy O'Brien is the best.

    By Anonymous NZ Powa, at January 15, 2010 2:15 pm  

  • my fav ref is wayne barnes love the way he strides his stuff looks like a chicken with marrow up his egg passage

    ps cmon wales grand slam

    By Anonymous mr thomas, at January 15, 2010 3:02 pm  

  • Think everyone's being a bit harsh. He's a good ref and got some serious guts to come out and be honest about his life and problems. I think the people slating him are the one's with issues.

    By Anonymous Andy, at January 15, 2010 3:08 pm  

  • Owens is okay. He isnt as good as people call him.

    Mine would be Barnes, Steve Walsh, Alain Rolland. They are the hot shots, and are effectively vying for the RWC Final.

    Barnes is the best scrum and ruck referee. Always wants fast ball.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 15, 2010 3:43 pm  

  • Alain Rolland is Irish by the way

    By Anonymous Wally, at January 15, 2010 4:45 pm  

  • Nigel Owens is good but its all about respect from the players which he has gained quickly. Rolland and Lewis could go out and butcher a game and still walk away with the same respect than they started it. Rolland gave 4 England yellows in Twickenham last year, imagine if that had of been Bryce Lawerence or Chris Berdos; they'd have been hung out to dry by fans and the media! There are no good southern hem refs at the moment....the last one was paddy o brien...rolland for next rwc final!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 15, 2010 4:48 pm  

  • Best refs? I think Owens is in the top three - Wayne Barnes is also there. Can't think of a third - they are all flawed in decision making at times - it's a tough job - I'm looking at game management and dealing with the captains, who can (when good) have a real influence on the ref.

    By Blogger Joseph, at January 15, 2010 5:17 pm  

  • lots of respect for him as a ref but more so as a person

    By Anonymous geordie, at January 15, 2010 5:30 pm  

  • I'm more interested in the steroid abuse etc.

    Hopefully everyone else thinks the same way - who cares what sort of sex he likes.

    By Anonymous KL, at January 15, 2010 6:26 pm  

  • Just for the record, Owens is very good.

    Whoever said Kaplan or White, you must watch a different game to me. They are refs who don't seem to either like rugby or have any idea how to allow a game to flow. Not to mention that Kaplan doesn't appear to know the rules...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 15, 2010 10:16 pm  

  • 1 of my favourite refs because he allows the game to flow

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 15, 2010 10:55 pm  

  • God he's a much deeper and more troubled person than I ever would have thought. He's a decent ref as well.

    And whoever is complimenting Wayne Barnes here needs to get their head checked. He simply doesn't understand what the hindmost foot at rucks is, he's a complete hometown ref, he gets bullied by the players and the crowd most of the time, and he gives final warnings a lot of the time and then gives another, and another, before he gives a yellow. He's not as bad as Kaplan or some of those other ones, but he is absolutely not the world's best.
    1. Alain Rolland
    2. Mark Lawrence
    3. Marius Jonker/Nigel Owens

    By Anonymous Kearney for tests, at January 16, 2010 1:46 am  

  • I'd actually probably agree with how Kearney for tests has those refs ranked, except I'd put Lawrence first - having him ref any match is probably a safe bet for a quality game. Maybe with Berdos (not terrific as the game referee) and Owens as the touch judges.

    Rolland is a pretty good ref, too. For a minute, I had him confused with Alan Lewis, who is NOT a great ref - pedantic, just like Kaplan.

    But whoever said "Not to mention that Kaplan doesn't appear to know the rules"...I beg to differ. Kaplan probably knows the rulebook better than most. That seems to be his problem, though. One of the few guys that will LOOK to find penalties rather than keep an eye out for them (there's a fine line, but that line is what lets a game flow).

    By Anonymous who cares, at January 16, 2010 3:02 am  

  • Kaplan and Lawrence are the top two South African refs thus they're the top two refs in the world. Period. NH refs are all garbage and don't let the game flow (that's why NH rugby is sooooo boring). The Australasian refs incompetent and biased. ANZAC pride etc etc.

    By Anonymous JC, at January 16, 2010 5:09 am  

  • Top ref, actually knows the rules and applies them.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 16, 2010 11:08 am  

  • 2.1% of Australian men are homosexual, 9.4% of men reported either feelings of attraction to the same gender or some sexual experience with the same gender.

    Over half of the men who had same-sex sexual experiences regarded themselves as heterosexual rather than homosexual.

    A further study found that 3-4% of Australians identified as homosexual while 23% of Australians reported having same-sex attractions.

    That explains all those 1980s mullet haircuts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 16, 2010 11:23 am  

    Bloody big fishes are Wales!
    They swim in the sea, we eat them for tea!
    Oh bloody big fishes are Wales!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 16, 2010 11:32 am  

  • Interesting to point out that all the homophobic, slandering or (in some cases) racial comments are mostly (if not all) Anonymous. Oh and my view: "is Wales full of batty boys?" no, but at their 'batty boys' have the courage to come out unlike the rest. Nigel Owens, I respect him as a person and I think he is a good enough ref and consistant.

    By Anonymous Lee, at January 16, 2010 12:54 pm  

  • As Owen's said, you always get a minority who are not going to accept it, and their level of maturity as displayed on this board has been astounding!

    Owen's is a decent ref, watching the Magners he is forceful and authoritative.

    As for Wales, well, even if we do have people who are queer, there ain't nowt as queer as folk!

    By Anonymous Proflyactive, at January 16, 2010 3:47 pm  

  • "if uv enjoyed my name is nigel owens, if u havent its wayne barnes" xD haha!!!

    good ref, although my favs are french-irish alain rolland and french joel jutge, but hes retired from test rugby:( ...

    Rugbydump: its nice'n enjoyable to have some footage of behind-the-scenes ref lives, keep'em comming please :)

    By Anonymous luxi, at January 16, 2010 6:54 pm  

  • I'll be glad if this site makes it so you need to be signed in to add a comment...too many morons. The guy just above me included.

    By Anonymous flapjack, at January 17, 2010 12:48 am  

  • Owens is an okay referee. He's good, but when he's having a bad day, he is incredibly bad, like SA verses Ireland, it was a very poor performance. All referees have on and off days.

    Dickinson's performance in the 3rd British and Irish Lions test was one of the better performances of the year, but he screwed up the scrums in Milan.

    Mark Lawrence is probably top 5 but he is far too arrogant, and also gets angry and frustruated to easily.

    Alain Rolland is a top referee, who will get what he wants in a game and that is free flowing rugby. If he doesn't get it, he will punish the team.

    Wayne Barnes is rated best by IRB, along with Kaplan, you can tell this because he receives the best appointments. I definitely rate Barnes as one of the better referees, if not the best, and this is that I have ever seen. His performances this year have been of the highest level, and few could have complaints about it.

    Personally I don't rate Kaplan at all.

    Chris White's days are past him, he will be due to retire very shortly, also missing out on major matches, he used to get 6 Nations matches and Tri-Nations matches but not so anymore.

    I think a referee who shouldn't be anywhere close to rugby is Bryce Lawrence. He is deadset an embarrassment to the game, only on the IRB Panel because his father is there. And I am very much looking forward to the day when he retires, very much so.

    By Anonymous Liam, at January 17, 2010 7:14 am  

  • If I had to choose the best ref in NH, it would probably have to be Nigel Owens. I hate the way Wayne Barnes refed this year, especially in the SA AU game. In the SH, it'd be Mark Lawrence, Jonathan Kaplan, and Bryce Lawrence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 17, 2010 9:12 am  

  • To anonymous (aobve)I thought Wayne Barnes handled the SA AUS match wonderfully this year. Probably the refereeing performance of the year for me.

    By Anonymous Steven, at January 17, 2010 12:54 pm  

  • >Mark Lawrence is probably top 5 but he is far too arrogant, and also gets angry and frustruated to easily.

    He seems to be one of the few refs who treats the players with respect, I'm guessing that's because he appears to be an actual athlete, as well. When did he get angry/frustrated?

    Worst ref award goes to the man, the myth, the legend, Stu Dickinson.

    By Anonymous World Champion, at January 17, 2010 1:50 pm  

  • Alain Rolland best ref out there, and he's bilingual (English and French) which is a good thing to have as a ref.

    By Anonymous Brick Shithouse, at January 18, 2010 6:07 pm  

  • Top Three: Wayne Barnes, Craig Joubert and Mark Lawrence (Nigel owens is right on the fringes though) - they all manage the players well, they are clear and concise, and they look like they enjoy what they are doing.

    All referees make mistakes, but statistically these three seem to make less than others.

    I used to like Kaplan but he seems a little off the boil in recent years. He's gotten quite quiet too - I had reflink for a few recent games he did in the NH, and he barely spoke... I know at present less is more with referees (we've come full circle) but nothing isn't great... our referees become football referees if they don't keep up some chat in the game...

    By Anonymous dafyddg1984, at October 14, 2010 11:13 pm  

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