Nigel Owens and Wayne Barnes have been revealing the toughest players they’ve had to referee during their career as high-profile match officials.
DID YOU KNOW? Nigel Owens started refereeing in 1987, after his sports teacher John Beynon suggested he take up refereeing after a poor performance in a school game.
#1. Johnny Sexton
Although Barnes wasn’t in the mix during the previous season’s Champions Cup final, a clash that witnessed Johnny Sexton exchanging heated words with referee Jaco Peyper and his team post-match, he has not shied away from expressing his robust views on the incident.
In his tell-all autobiography, ‘Throwing the Book,’ Barnes delves into the details and shares his candid perspective on the dramatic confrontation.
Barnes said: “Further evidence that the authorities don’t have referees’ backs, and seem to be making stuff up as they go along, was the incident between Johnny Sexton and Jaco Peyper after the 2023 Champions Cup final, which La Rochelle won against Leinster.
“Leinster’s Sexton, who didn’t play because he was injured, walked on to the pitch and abused Jaco and his touch judges, Karl Dickson and Christophe Ridley.
“You could clearly see him letting rip as Jaco was on the podium receiving his medal, and you didn’t need to be a lip reader to know that was he was saying wasn’t very pleasant, to put it mildly.”
Barnes continues: “So when asked, Jaco and his team said they didn’t hear anything,
“European Rugby didn’t believe them, but Jaco and his team weren’t prepared to put their names to any statements because they weren’t confident that European Rugby would protect them.
“European Rugby promised them their names wouldn’t be mentioned and said it would write a statement on their behalf (you’d be ripped apart in the criminal justice system for doing that), but when the time came to prosecute Sexton, their names and quotes were all over the transcripts of the judgement.
Nigel Owens, commenting on Sexton, said: “I’ll tell you what, they’re probably the best two referees in the world, Dan Biggar and Johnny Sexton, because when you ref them they always think they know more than you!”