Rugby Games

The Next Best Thing Is Refereeing

You could argue that refereeing is one of the hardest jobs in the world, especially in rugby union where the rules are so complex and often see changes season after season. One decision, whether right or wrong and the thousands of fans in the stadium will be on your back, you need to be able to hold your own. However, on the other hand, you get to be in amongst the action on some of the biggest stages of them all, World Cup finals, Six Nations clashes, and Champions Cup finals. you name it. Nigel Owens, one of the most recognizable and arguably best referees in the world, admits that not everybody can handle the pressure.

“I think, first of all, it is not for everybody,” said the Welshman who refereed the World Cup Final at Twickenham between New Zealand and Australia. “People are not going to like you for your decisions, it is a role where people are not going to pat you on the back all the time, they are going to write opinions or shout opinions at you. You have got to be a certain type of person to do it” Owens believes that if you have got what it takes to be at the helm and take control of matches then being a referee comes second after being a professional player. “On the field, the next best thing is refereeing, to be part of those rugby occasions and to be part of the game is amazing,” he added.

The 46-year-old only started refereeing professionally when he was 30 years old and believes that you shouldn’t become a referee to be a ‘celebrity’ but do it because of your love for the game. “My advice would be if you want to be a rugby referee you need to do it for the right reason,” said Owens, who oversaw two games at the Six Nations.

“Do it because you enjoy refereeing, you are passionate about rugby and you want to be a referee not because you think it will be a job and you will become a famous, well-known person because you are a referee. “You need to start refereeing because it is enjoyable and you enjoy it as a hobby and then if you are good at it, and the other opportunities come along for you to become a professional referee then even better, but make sure you start for the right reason.”

Rugby referees are treated with a lot more respect and spoken to by players in a much better fashion than football referees. Rugby players address the referee as ‘sir’ and don’t give him abuse like in other sports, but when it comes to the knowing rules it is a very complicated role. “I think there are two things here, rugby referees’ style depends on how the game goes because the laws are so complex,” he added. “There is a lot of grey in rugby which means you have to use your refereeing ability to make a decision. So, refereeing the game itself, I would say is more difficult (than football),”

“Football is more difficult because of the pressure that is on them from the fans in the stadium, from the managers and from the players, there isn’t the same respect value. “I think it is different types of difficulties, it is probably more pressure for a football referee to deal with the off-the-field stuff than the actual decision-making on the field.”

It has been suggested that football-style back chat is starting to creep into the game of rugby, Owens admits that he has seen an increase in the trait but believes it is down to the referee in charge to stop it from happening. “I think there is more back chat now, more players tend to come up to you and question your decisions or ask you to check things with the TMO, but I think that’s down to the referee than to be strict enough and say ‘look, this is not happening’, then they tend to respect that and it doesn’t happen. “But, if you are a referee who allows that to happen, then it will happen in the game, I think there is a bit more of it, so you have got to keep your standards,” he said.

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