Nigel Owens: Welsh referee proud to reach European milestone

Nigel Owens
Nigel Owens officiated his first Heineken Cup in January 2002 in a match between Calvisano and Perpignan.

What do you call a Welshman in a World Cup or European Champions Cup final? The referee.

An old joke maybe but one that has been pertinent throughout the career of Nigel Owens, regarded by many as the world's finest official.

And it will be the same on Saturday when Owens takes charge of the Champions Cup final between Clermont Auvergne and Saracens at Murrayfield.

It will be his third European final in a row and a sixth in total having first officiated in European rugby in the 2001 Challenge Cup.

The final will also be the 100th game in the tournament that the 2015 World Cup final referee has taken charge of.

"I am really proud," said Owens.

Nigel Owens refereed the 2015 World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand at Twickenham
Nigel Owens has refereed 76 Test matches, more than any other official

"The European final is the biggest club game in the northern hemisphere if not the world game.

"I am as excited now doing the sixth one as I was doing the first one. That is why I am still refereeing because I still get that buzz.

"Without blowing my own trumpet, which is the last thing I like to do, there is not much more to achieve because I have done everything in rugby refereeing apart from the Calcutta Cup.

"I am not refereeing because I want any milestones or records or this being my 100th game. But when those do come along and the 100th game happens to fall on the final as well, it adds something more special to it as well.

"The final is for the two teams, for Saracens and Clermont, but to play a little small part in that is something I am proud of."

'Love of the game'

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Owens, 45, says he aims to carry on towards the age of 50.

"My love is the only thing that keeps me going and I am only going to get that if I am performing at my best," he said.

"The only reason my form will go permanently is when my fitness goes so it's down to the body really. The body is good at the moment and I am as fit as I have ever been.

"I hope to keep that going and I am looking at the end of the 2019-20 season where I will be nearly 49.

"That will be probably be it then. It might be before then but that's the plan at the moment."

Another World Cup final?

The draw for the 2019 World Cup was made in Kyoto on Wednesday, with Wales being pulled out of the hat alongside Australia, Georgia and two qualifiers that could be Fiji and Canada.

Owens was the Welshman involved in the 2015 final when he took charge of New Zealand's victory over Australia at Twickenham. But he does not envisage being in charge of such a showpiece event again.

"The World Cup final is the pinnacle," said Owens.

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"I think if there are other referees who are performing well enough to referee a World Cup final and have not done it before then they should do it before anyone who does it a second time.

"If you are the only one who is capable of doing it then maybe, but there are three or four other referees at the minute who are more than capable of doing a final.

"If they are showing that form in 2019, and their countries are not [in the final], then they should do it.

"But as I said in the build-up to the 2015 tournament, I would be more than happy and rather be sitting in the stand watching and supporting my country in the World Cup final than have the decision of me refereeing it or not."

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