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Toulon Don't Seem Pleased That Nigel Owens Will Be Involved In The Leinster Clash

Toulon Don't Seem Pleased That Nigel Owens Will Be Involved In The Leinster Clash
By Conor O'Leary

If reports are to be believed, Nigel Owens isn't thought of as highly in France as he is on these shores. He may be regarded as one of the top referees in world rugby, but it appears that Toulon are unhappy that he will be involved in Leinster's trip to the south of France for their Champion's Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Owens will be a touch judge for the game which will see Wayne Barnes as referee, just as he did in the quarter final last year between the two teams.

According to today's Midi Olympique, Toulon head-coach Bernard Laporte has made some comments that the French newspaper are interpreting as an effort to avoid revealing his true feelings about the choice of Owens as a touch judge.

Laporte said that he wouldn't speak about it until after the match but did add that 'some people tell us that he is very close to Leinster'. It's not hard to see why Midi would be taking this interpretation, after Toulon's owner came out publicly and complained about Owens three times in the last 12 months.

When Leinster lost to Toulon in the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup last year, Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal confessed after the game that the club had written to the ERC to attempt to prevent Owens from taking charge of the match:

We were told that there was a referee that we should not have, he said. And so I do not want to. We realised that there was a will, whenever he refereed Leinster; Leinster won. He had a quarter, semi, final ...

He later followed this up before the final, stating that he didn't want Owens to referee the final between Toulon and Saracens after watching Owens referee the other semi-final.


Last December, Boujdellal made the point back then that teams who have certain referees more than others can get used to their interpretations of the laws and adapt easier than the opposition:

Look at the history. That referee. He has refereed Leinster many times, I think he has refereed in the quarters, in the semis, and in the final, the year they are champions of Europe. And the more you are refereed by an arbitrator, the more you know the way to arbitrate so the more you're comfortable.

I recall that last year, I wished he would not referee us against Leinster because without you making secret, there are people who were senior to the ERC who told me to avoid Nigel Owens.

As it turns out, Owens has only refereed Leinster in the Heineken Cup knock-out stages in the quarter finals (2011) and the final (2012).


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