Nigel Owens: World Cup final referee to continue until 2019
World Cup final referee Nigel Owens says he intends to keep officiating in international rugby for another four years.
At 44 years old, Owens was the oldest of the 12 referees chosen for the World Cup, but his age will not prevent him from taking part in Japan in 2019.
Selection criteria is based on performances and fitness, and Owens feels he has plenty more years in him.
"My plans at the moment are quite clearly to go on until 2019," he said.
"We had a meeting with the assessors and I was asked what my plans were and I said 'I'm enjoying my refereeing and as long as I keep reffing well and I'm fit enough I want to go on to 2019'.
"Their response was 'great, we're glad to hear that, we'd like you to be there in 2019'."
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More pressure than ever
Saturday's World Cup final at Twickenham, which New Zealand won 34-17 against Australia, was the pinnacle of Owens' 68-Test career.
He became the second Welshman to oversee the final following Derek Bevan, who was in charge in 1991 when Australia edged England, also at Twickenham.
South African Andre Watson is the only referee to be in charge of two finals.
He was 45 on his second appearance in the 2003 final, won by England against hosts Australia.
World Rugby, the game's governing body, has welcomed Owens' decision to prolong his international career, adding he had shown exceptional fitness standards during the recent tournament.
Owens admits the pressure, scrutiny and physical demands on referees are higher than ever, but he insists the passion for the job remains.
"I just thoroughly enjoy it and I'm going to keep on doing it as long as I can and as long as I'm good at it," he said.
"When the time is right and I know the body or the mind can't take it any more because of the travelling or the pressure, or when the legs can't get there to make those big decisions, then I'll know that and I will be calling it a day when that happens."
Sections of the Australian media have criticised aspects of Owens' performance in the final, claiming he missed a forward pass in the passage of play that ended with Dan Carter kicking a penalty to stretch New Zealand's advantage to 9-3.
Owens, though, says he has learned to deal with criticism, and feels his decisions on Saturday did not affect the eventual outcome.
"If you can't deal with criticism as a referee you just can't do this job," he said.
"There's something in you that helps you deal with that.
"It doesn't make it any nicer for me to hear criticism, especially if any criticism is personal.
"As long as you can look back on a game and say 'I did my best, I gave it my all' that's what counts."
Owens revealed he was hugged and thanked for a "great game" by Australia number eight David Pocock moments after the final whistle.
"For someone who's just missed out on winning the Webb Ellis Trophy to come up and do that to you says a lot about the integrity of the man himself and what a wonderful sport rugby is," added Owens.
The Welsh village of Gowerton will be Owens' next destination for a Swalec League Division One West match with Crymych.
Two weeks later, he will be in the south of France for Toulon's European Champions Cup tie with Bath.
"I could've had a weekend off this weekend - a couple of refs have taken a couple of weekends off," said Owens.
"But I'd rather be out there reffing, whether it's under-12s, a schools game, youth game, a Division One West game or a World Cup final."