Rugby World Cup 2019: Nigel Owens to referee first qualifier

Nigel Owens sin bins New Zealand's Ben Smith during the 2015 World Cup Final
Nigel Owens sin bins New Zealand's Ben Smith during the 2015 World Cup Final

World Cup final referee Nigel Owens will take charge of the opening qualifying game for the Japan 2019 tournament.

The Welshman officiated New Zealand's 34-17 win over Australia in Twickenham.

The road to Tokyo begins when Saint Vincent and the Grenadines host Jamaica in Kingstown on Saturday, 5 March.

Owens said the 2015 final was a "wonderful experience", adding: "I am really looking forward to this next challenge."

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Around 200 games will take place between teams hoping to make the finals in Japan.

Owens hopes his efforts can help the rival West Indies players relish the experience.

"For the players in this match it will be a chance to represent their country on the international stage and be part of the Rugby World Cup process," said Owens.

"So from my point of view, it is important that I prepare well and perform to the best of my ability.

"Hopefully, if I do that it will be a good game that allows the players' talents and hard work to shine through."

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