Tuesday 12 December 2017

'I just say it as it is' - Nigel Owens responds to Luke Fitzgerald's call for him to end one-liners

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Nigel Owens has claimed that he does not make comments to be funny after former Ireland international Luke Fitzgerald said he disliked the manner in which the referee communicates with players during games.

Owens' style of refereeing has earned him many admirers and some of his exchanges with players have become viral hits.

One such incident occurred last weekend during Munster's victory over Glasgow at Irish Independent Park when Munster lock Billy Holland threw a forward pass just after Welsh referee had called advantage over.

When Holland asked why the play wasn't being brought back for the initial infringement, Owens responded: "Advantage is over there lads."

"It's poor play by you there on the pass. Under no pressure there."

Holland cheekily responded: "Cheers coach."

Clips of the exchange were shared throughout social media and were well received by fans but speaking in Independent.ie's weekly rugby show, The Left Wing, Fitzgerald claimed that he didn't like that style of officiating.

"I don't like it personally," Luke Fitzgerald said on this week's episode of The Left Wing

"He shouldn't be commentating on the game. His first focus is to make it a good spectacle, that he referees the game correctly.

"We're heading into a dangerous territory for me.

"It's a soccer thing, when you have everyone on the pitch talking to the referee, the referee trying to be too smart, trying to be friendly with the players

"I'd rather he just refereed the game well.

"I just think those kind of things are disappointing and it's disrespectful to the players who are putting in a huge amount of effort.

"There's no place for it in the game. You can't actually speak back. It's almost like a situation where someone is on a podium having a go at someone in the crowd. It's wrong because there's no platform to come back."

He cited an incident during Leinster's meeting with Munster in December when Owens penalised Cian Healy at a ruck. He told the prop: "The hands out rule changed three years ago, where have you been?"

"There was a clip with Cian Healy down in Thomond Park which I thought was a step too far," he added.

Owens, who will referee his 150th Guinness PRO12 encounter this weekend when the Dragon meet the Scarlets, took part in a live Q&A session on WalesOnline today and addressed the subject after he was asked if he prepares one-liners before games.

"I honestly have never prepared any one-liners or quotes to say in a game," he said

"All I do is referee the game which is what I’m there to do, and just say it as it is. My job is to referee the game and nothing else.

"I have the utmost respect for every player on that field and do not say things to belittle them or to have a laugh at their expense.

"On the weekend one ex-player suggested that I shouldn’t be saying witty comments. Explaining to the captain why advantage was over was what my job is as a referee.

"I did not see anything witty or disrespectful in what I said. I am a human being and I am just being myself. The game is not about me or any other referee, the game is about the players.

"I am only there to play a small part in it. I hope that the small part I play helps the players and the game. I am not there to do anything more.

"I hope everyone watching the game enjoys it too and if they are all talking about what a great game it was and no-one is talking about the referee then my job is done."

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