The World Cup Final referee is widely considered to be the best official in rugby union. He implements rules fairly but allows the game to flow; he imposes his authority – but he isn’t afraid to show a sense of humour on the pitch. He’s also the only openly gay official in what’s seen as an especially macho sport. In speeches Nigel talks about the hurdles he had to overcome, and the skills you require to make tough decisions with tough characters.
Nigel Owens is widely acknowledged as the best referee in rugby union. His decision-making, approach to dealing with players, knowledge and interpretation of the rules is acclaimed by players, coaches and commentators. He is also the sport’s only openly-gay official.
First officiating on the international stage in a game between Ireland and Japan, Nigel oversaw his first World Cup match two years later in France. At club level he took charge of two consecutive Heineken Cup finals (one of only two referees to do so) and has overseen more European matches than anyone else.
Nigel quickly gained a reputation for being able to implement the rules in such a way as to be fair, and also to allow the flow of the game. He won the respect of all involved in the game and mixed judicious rulings with humour and authority on the pitch. Privately, Nigel struggled with conflicts between his sexuality and some of the attitudes in the world of rugby. Despite considering extreme courses of action, he eventually made his personal life public, and with the exception of some ignorant comments from the stands and on social media, was widely supported by figures within and outside of rugby.
Away from the pitch Nigel has gone on to host chat shows and quiz programmes for the Welsh-language broadcaster S4C, and is arguably rugby’s most famous referee. When he was given charge of the 2015 World Cup final, approval of his appointment was almost universal and after the Australia/New Zealand game his role was praised by all.
Nigel speaks about his personal story, as well as the traits needed to command on the pitch, how to take tough decisions and deal with tough characters.
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