"Not happy" - Nigel Owens gives his verdict on scrum penalty that proved costly for England - Ruck

“Not happy” – Nigel Owens gives his verdict on scrum penalty that proved costly for England

Nigel Owens, a former referee, has criticized the call to penalize England during the scrum in the closing moments of their World Cup semi-final against South Africa, describing it as “very debatable.”

He believes the decision ultimately hinges on the referee’s judgment on that particular day.

“Now, big talking point in that wonderful, exciting and intense game was the last penalty in the scrum,” Owens said.

“There are a lot of things to look at here. So do we have Ellis Genge going to his knee? Yes, we do. Now what tends to happen, if a player goes to his knee, the referee will deal with that there and then.

“The referee here decides that Ellis Genge gets back up on his feet, so he continues the scrum. What happens next is we have Ellis Genge going across, but also some of you have quite rightly highlighted that you have the tighthead of South Africa [Vincent Koch] also going across.

“So what the referee has to deal with here, he has to deal with what he believes is the first offence. So for him, the first offence is the knee on the ground. The South Africa tighthead going across then, for him, is the second offence. So it’s one of those very, very debatable ones.

“The only thing I would say, if you are going to penalise a knee on the ground, then you need to penalise it when it happens. Not afterwards when something else has happened. It’s a little bit like the contact area. There’s no point you coming in and penalising the second or the third offence, and not penalising the first one. It will then be too late to go back to it.

“So, in this instance here, the referee penalised Ellis Genge for going across, because he feels the action on the knee has contributed to that. It’s a very, very tough call and to be honest it’s one that comes down to your interpretation as a referee on the day.”

Rugby Quiz:


Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

“It’s a toss of a coin for me… and it’s come down in Folau’s favour.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: “He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”