Saturday 24 February 2018

Welsh referee Nigel Owens praises Paul O'Connell as a 'great man' after controversial Ireland v All Blacks match

Heineken Cup Semi-Final 2/5/2009
Leinster Referee Nigel Owens
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie *** Local Caption ***
Heineken Cup Semi-Final 2/5/2009 Leinster Referee Nigel Owens Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie *** Local Caption ***
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Welsh referee Nigel Owens has defended his decisions at the heartbreaking All Blacks v Ireland game last month.

For the first 73 minutes, the nail-biting match was leaning towards a historic Irish victory over the All Blacks. However a missed penalty by Jonny Sexton earlier in the game and a last minute conversion retake by the All Blacks as instructed by Mr Owens, broke Irish fans' hearts throughout the world.

Speaking from his Welsh home on RTE Radio One's John Murray Show, he said: "As a referee, you've got to make those tough calls, but the right ones."

"Because you constantly have so much going on when you're refereeing;-more now than ever, the game is much faster, you can't take your eye off anything for a split second.

"You just do your job and referee what's in front of you and make the calls as you see them."

"I stand over everything I do," he began. "We're human at the end of the day and we make mistakes.

"I've been brought up to be honest and t have moral an integrity, if I make a mistake in a game or in life, I'll always put my hand up and admit that

"You can't defend the undefendable. If I do get it wrong, I'd be the first to say it.

"Very rarely do I get bad reactions on Twitter and Facebook. It was surprising after the Ireland game with all the history that was snatched away. Many said it was a great spectacle of rugby at the end of the day.

Mr Owens went on to praise Paul O'Connell for his good sportmanship following the match.

"He was quite gracious," he explained on chatting with the team captain at the official post-match dinner.

"It tells you a lot about what a great man he is and what a great leader he is. He thanked me for referring the game and said he had no issues whatsovever.

"Many a man would have stood up there and said something, but he didn't. I thought to myself, what a great man he is and what great men we have in rugby and what a great sport rugby is."

Mr Owens opened up about his past battles with depression as he struggled to accept his sexuality, and urged others in the same position to do what is best for them - not anyone else.

He also discussed British Olympian Tom Daley's decision to come out as bisexual last week.

"Only come out if it's right for you, not because you feel you have to. The people I've spoken to, I've always said, 'If you want to carry on with your life and not tell people, then do that. If you feel you need to be yourself, know you can be yourself and carry on with your life."

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