"One more match" - Legendary referee Nigel Owens reveals his one regret about retirement from rugby - Ruck

“One more match” – Legendary referee Nigel Owens reveals his one regret about retirement from rugby

Legendary former referee Nigel Owens has revealed his one regret about retirement: fans are trying to tempt him out for one more match.

Owens wrote in his column for the Mail Online: “I have already mentioned how refereeing a Six Nations game can make you feel like you’ve made it as a Test official. That’s certainly how I felt when I took charge of my first game in the tournament back in February 2007.

“It was England v Italy at Twickenham, with the likes of Phil Vickery, Josh Lewsey, Mike Tindall and Jonny Wilkinson lining up for the hosts.

“There were World Cup winners in their ranks and with a massive crowd in the stadium and watching at home on TV, I did feel a little bit nervous. But overall, I felt pride.

“Twickenham is one of my favourite stadiums that I refereed at. I remember walking in there with some of the fans already either side waiting for the players to arrive and I’d hear them shout out to me. Most of them said ‘Good luck, Nige’ or ‘Good luck ref’, you would get the occasional ‘Oh God help us, we’ve got a Welshman in charge today!’.

Referee, Nigel Owens during the Heineken Champions Cup Final Match between Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92 at Ashton Gate, Bristol on the 17 Oct. PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“That first game is a very special memory for me. My dad, my uncle and my cousin were all there to watch and support me, which meant an awful lot. I think it might have been the first time my dad had left Wales!! It is a very fond memory I hold dear.

“Such is my admiration for the Six Nations, I wish I had ended my career in the tournament. It would have been the perfect way to bow out, for me. Of course, it didn’t turn out that way as my final game came in my 100th Test out in Paris for the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup. But I wish it could have all ended in the Six Nations.”

Reacting to his column, one fan quipped, “One more match then Nigel?” to which another responded, “We’d love to see it.”


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.”

Fixtures for the Six Nations - Round 1

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.”