Nigel Owens

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Nigel Owens
MBE
Nigel Owens Welsh Rugby Union Referee.JPG
Owens officiating the 2009 English Premiership match between Bath and Leicester Tigers
Date of birth (1971-06-18) 18 June 1971 (age 45)
Place of birth Mynyddcerrig, near Cross Hands, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Occupation(s) Rugby union referee
Rugby union career
Refereeing career
Years Competition Apps
2001–
2002–
2002–
2003–
2007–
2015
Challenge Cup
Heineken/Champions Cup
Pro12
Test matches
Rugby World Cup
RWC Finals
9
94
140
74
13
1
correct as of 8 November 2016.

Nigel Owens MBE (born 18 June 1971) is a Welsh international rugby union referee. He is one of three professional referees at the Welsh Rugby Union, along side Ben Whitehouse and Craig Evans. Owens is also known as a TV personality, as one of the presenters of the S4C Welsh language chat shows Jonathan and Bwrw'r Bar. Owens also hosts his own quiz programme Munud i Fynd. In 2011 he was made a member of the Gorsedd of Bards.[1]

Early life[edit]

Owens was born and raised in the village of Mynyddcerrig, near Cross Hands in Carmarthenshire, Wales. He is a fluent Welsh speaker. He was a school technician at Ysgol Gyfun Maes-yr-Yrfa (cy) in Llanelli, the same school attended by Welsh international Dwayne Peel, and was a youth worker with Menter Cwm Gwendraeth. Before that he worked on a farm, for over a year, as a farmhand.

Refereeing career[edit]

Owens started refereeing in 1987, after his sports teacher John Beynon suggested he take up refereeing after a school game. His first ever game was an under-15's game between Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire at the age of 16. Since then, Owens has refereed at the top level, both at club and international level.

Owens made his European debut during the 2000–01 European Challenge Cup season, refereeing London Irish and Piacenza on 21 January 2001. In October 2001, Owens was one of three referees to be the Welsh Rugby Union's first ever full time professional referees,[2] before going onto make his debut in Europe's top flight competition, the Heineken Cup, refereeing Calvisano and Perpignan on 12 January 2002. Haven been on the referee panel for the Welsh-Scottish League for a number of years, Owens made his Celtic League debut at the start of the 2002–03 Celtic League, refereeing Border Reivers and Connacht on 30 August 2002.

Owens appeared on the International Rugby Board World Sevens Series, and was a regular referee on the circuit between 2002 and 2005.[3] On 16 February 2003, Owens had his first international appointment, refereeing Portugal v Georgia during the 2003–04 European Nations Cup First Division. In 2005, Owens earned his first International Rugby Board appointment, when he was appointed to the first test of the Irish tour of Japan in Osaka.[4] During the 2005/06 season, Owens became a regular appointment at both Celtic League and Heineken Cup level, making six appearances during the 2005–06 Heineken Cup.

Owens was appointed to his first play-off/knock-out rugby match on 23 April 2006, when he refereed the 2005–06 European Challenge Cup semi-final between Newcastle Falcons and London Irish. While during the 2006–07 European Challenge Cup, he refereed both a semi-final and the final. He additionally refereed the 2006–07 Heineken Cup quarter-final between London Wasps and Leinster on 31 March 2007. That same year, he refereed his first Six Nations Championship game, England v Italy, and his first Tri Nations game, New Zealand v Australia. On 11 September 2007, Owens made his Rugby World Cup debut in the match between Argentina and Georgia in Lyon, France. He was the only Welsh referee representative during the 2007 Rugby World Cup, where he refereed three Pool stage matches.[5]

Owens refereed in all 6 rounds of the 2007–08 Heineken Cup pool stage, and was appointed to a quarter-final, semi-final and the final, becoming just the third Welsh referee to referee a Heineken Cup final.[6] He repeated this accolade the following year, refereeing 9 games, including a quarter-final, semi-final and the final, becoming only the third referee to referee a Heineken Cup final more than once, and just the second to referee two consecutive Heineken Cup finals.[7] On 16 June 2009, Owens officiated a tour game as part of the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, refereeing the Southern Kings v British and Irish Lions game.[8]

During the 2010/11 season, Owens was appointed to three play-off/knock-out matches; 2010–11 Heineken Cup quarter-final, 2010–11 European Challenge Cup semi-final and the 2011 Celtic League Grand Final. He later officiated at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which included an appointment to a quarter-final match, New Zealand v Argentina. He was also appointed to the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final as one of the assistant referees.[9]

Owens refereed his third Heineken Cup final when he was appointed to the 2012 Heineken Cup Final between Leinster and Ulster.[10]

In 2013, Owens refereed his 100th Pro12 game and became the most appointed Welsh referee at international level, overtaking Derek Bevan. While during the 2014–15 European Rugby Champions Cup he became the most appointed referee at European Rugby Champions Cup/Heineken Cup level with 80 appointments, overtaking Alain Rolland. He also officiated that season's final between Clermont and Toulon, before refereeing the 2015 Pro12 Grand Final.[11] The 2015 Pro12 final was his third time refereeing the Pro12 final haven refereed the 2011 and 2014 Pro12 Grand Final.[12]

Owens was on the 12-man referee panel for the 2015 Rugby World Cup where he was appointed to three pool stage matches, including the France v Ireland clash at the Millennium Stadium, which was the first time Owens had the chance to referee an international match at the Welsh home stadium.[13] Owens was later appointed to a further two World Cup tests, one of which was the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final between New Zealand and Australia.[14] He became just the second Welsh referee to referee a World Cup Final, after Derek Bevan took charge of the 1991 Rugby World Cup Final. He was later presented with the World Rugby Referee Award during the 2015 World Rugby Awards.[15]

Owens announced on 3 November 2015 that he intended to keep officiating at international rugby for another four years.[16]

On 5 March 2016, Owens launched the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifying process, refereeing the very first qualification match, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines v Jamaica in Arnos Vale.[17] Later that year, Owens became the most capped rugby referee when he took charge of the Fiji-Tonga clash in Suva, overtaking Jonathan Kaplan's record of 70 tests.[18]

Personal life[edit]

In May 2007, Owens publicly came out as gay in an interview with Wales on Sunday. Although reactions have been generally positive, he says it was a difficult decision to make and that he had even contemplated suicide when he was 26.[19]

It's such a big taboo to be gay in my line of work, I had to think very hard about it because I didn't want to jeopardise my career. Coming out was very difficult and I tried to live with who I really was for years. I knew I was 'different' from my late teens, but I was just living a lie.[19]

Shortly after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Owens was named 'Gay Sports Personality of the Year' at gay rights group Stonewall's awards ceremony in London.[20] In 2011 he was made a member of the Gorsedd of Bards.[1][21] He was a patron of the LGBT Centre of Excellence Wales, until its disbandment in late 2012, but he is still that of the Wooden Spoon Society rugby charity. In 2013 Owens became a patron of Bullies Out charity in Wales.[22] He served at various times as secretary, chairman and president of the Wales Federation of Young Farmers Clubs.[23] Owens is a fan of Wrexham Football Club.[24] Owens was the subject of homophobic abuse when taking charge of England and New Zealand in November 2014. It led to the two supporters being banned from Twickenham for two years. In 2015 he was named 'Gay Sports Personality of the Decade' at Stonewall awards ceremony in London.

In the 2016 Birthday Honours, Owens was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to sport.[25]

His autobiography, Hanner Amser ("Half Time"), was published in Welsh in 2008, then in English in 2009.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Gorsedd honour for Gillian Clarke and Nigel Owens". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Professional refs
  3. ^ CRAIG JOUBERT: BEYOND THE FIELD
  4. ^ "Nigel Owens – Personally Speaking Bureau". Retrieved 5 August 2016. 
  5. ^ "Welsh ref Owens on World Cup list". icWales. 27 April 2007. Archived from the original on 16 March 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  6. ^ Nigel Owens named as Heineken Cup final referee
  7. ^ NIGEL OWENS TO REFEREE HEINEKEN CUP FINAL
  8. ^ IRB confirm referees for Lions tour
  9. ^ Craig Joubert to take charge of World Cup final
  10. ^ Nigel Owens to referee Heineken Cup final
  11. ^ Welsh referee Nigel Owens to take charge of European Champions Cup final
  12. ^ Welsh referee Nigel Owens to take charge of Guinness Pro12 final between Glasgow Warriors and Munster
  13. ^ Match officials announced for Rugby World Cup 2015
  14. ^ Rugby World Cup: Nigel Owens confirmed as final referee
  15. ^ Nigel Owens wins World Rugby Referee Award as Dan Carter wins World Rugby Player of the Year
  16. ^ "Nigel Owens: World Cup final referee to continue until 2019 - BBC Sport". Bbc.co.uk. 3 November 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  17. ^ Rugby World Cup 2019: Nigel Owens to referee first qualifier
  18. ^ Nigel Owens becomes rugby world record-breaker as he takes charge of 71st international match
  19. ^ a b Bevan, Nathan (20 May 2007). "Ref's gay torment". Wales on Sunday. Archived from the original on 27 May 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2007. 
  20. ^ "World Cup rugby ref's gay award". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2 November 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  21. ^ Pickup, Oliver (13 November 2014). "Nigel Owens target of homophobia: 12 things you might not have known about the Welsh international referee". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  22. ^ Owens, Nigel (3 July 2014). "Nigel Owens: Football and rugby could benefit from one captain's challenge per match...and why Luis Suarez MUST issue a sincere apology". Wales Online. Media Wales. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "Rugby ref Nigel takes over as YFC president". Wales Online. Media Wales. 22 September 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  24. ^ Owens, Nigel (11 June 2014). "Nigel Owens column: FIFA must stamp down on play-acting at Brazil 2014 or it could filter into rugby too". Wales Online. Media Wales. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  25. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61608. p. B22. 11 June 2016.

Further reading[edit]