Sunday 18 March 2018

Tony Ward: Luke should try being the man in the middle

Luke Fitzgerald wants Nigel Owens to focus on refereeing
Luke Fitzgerald wants Nigel Owens to focus on refereeing
Luke Fitzgerald. Photo: Sportsfile Sportsdesk

The verbal spat between Luke Fitzgerald and Nigel Owens - and I'm with the Welsh official on this one - triggered the thought as to just how good a referee Fitzgerald might make.

I say that with absolute sincerity.

I am slow to criticise referees because I feel they have a thankless task. I admire anyone who takes up the whistle, particularly former players.

In this weekend's European semi-finals, Owens and Romain Poite will take charge of the Champions Cup showdowns, with Irish referees Andrew Brace and John Lacey overseeing the Challenge Cup games.

Lacey, a former Shannon and Munster wing-cum-full-back, is a wonderful case in point: a talented player now equally proficient with the whistle.

You cannot put a value on that experience gleaned from playing.

Glen Jackson, a former Saracens out-half, is already at the top of the refereeing tree, while ex-Munster, Leicester, Connacht and Ireland 'A' scrum-half Frank Murphy is well on the way.

The former PBC schoolboy only retired in 2014 yet just three seasons on, he has come through All-Ireland League to Guinness Pro12 as well as European Nations Cup.

Being a great player does not guarantee becoming a great referee - as with coaching - but what an inside track they have.

Irish Independent

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