Rugby

Austin Healey Believes Nigel Owens's Celebrity Is Affecting His Refereeing

Austin Healey Believes Nigel Owens's Celebrity Is Affecting His Refereeing

Along with Andrew Conway's miracle late try, one of the main talking points from Munster's win against Toulon in the Champions Cup quarter-final was the officiating of Nigel Owens and his team.

Moments after kick-off, there was a contentious decision when Simon Zebo knocked the ball out of play with his hand; a decision regarding Conor Murray's first half try took an eternity to make; there was a missed Peter O'Mahony boot in a Toulon scrum late in the game.

It all added up to an unhappy French media, unhappy Toulon fans and an unhappy Toulon owner.

Writing in his column for The Telegraph, Austin Healey said he could understand if Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal thinks that Nigel Owens is becoming too large a presence in the game.

"There is no doubt that Nigel falls into the category of celebrity referee," wrote Healey.

"No other referee comes close to matching his public profile. He has his own talk show. He has his own newspaper column in which he discussed Brexit this week. In fact I can’t think of a referee in any sport who has built up a profile like his and being able to pull it off."

Owens has a Welsh language talk show on S4C and a column for the Western Mail.

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Healey believes that the 46-year-old is, at times, reffing the game using his own interpretation of the rules.

Though he doesn't think that Owens should have to give up his work outside of rugby, he does feel that it is affecting his performance on the pitch.

My question is whether that is affecting his ability to referee? Was Nigel Owens a better referee four or five years ago than he is today? I believe he was.

Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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