Legendary World Rugby referee Nigel Owens was a favourite among many for his great sense of humour and his reliable officiating during some of the biggest games around the world.
Since retiring at the end of 2020, Owens has been doing a lot of media work, including his youtube series where he reviews refereeing decisions from matches the previous week.
Owens also writes regularly for Wales Online, and in his latest column, he documents his top five stadiums that he loved to referee in.
Nigel Owens and his top five stadiums
The Welsh an has revealed that two stadiums in Ireland are part of his top five, with Thomond Park and Croke Park listed as his fourth and third favourite.
Owens officiated upon a number of massive Munster games in Limerick, including the famous '41 phase' that was won by Ronan O'Gara over Northampton. Speaking about Thomond Park, Owens said:
"For me, few things beat Thomond Park on a European Cup weekend. That is an experience that should be on every rugby fan’s bucket list. When there are 28,000 in there for games against the likes of Toulouse, Leicester or Clermont – all of which I’ve refereed there – then it doesn’t half take some beating.
"Then there was the game against Northampton in 2011, when Munster went through 41 phases in the final play of the game before Ronan O’Gara nailed a drop goal from over 40 metres to win it. It was absolute pandemonium.
Nigel Owens also spoke about the difference in games between Leinster and Munster in Dublin and when the game is in Thomond Park.
"Refereeing Leinster v Munster in Dublin was one thing, but refereeing the same fixture at Thomond Park is something else entirely. It was a very difficult game to referee because of the intensity of the crowd and the players responding to that."
Sitting just ahead of Thomond Park in Owens's list is Croke Park. While Lansdowne Road was being turned into the Aviva Stadium, Ireland played a host of games at the home of the GAA with the former referee saying "the atmosphere was remarkable".
Speaking in his column, Nigel Owens said:
"I refereed Leinster v Munster here in the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2009. It was like an international day, there was a sea of blue and red descending on the stadium. The attendance of over 82,000 set a record at the time and the atmosphere was remarkable."
Owens named the Stade de France in fifth place, with Twickenham named as his second favourite and Ellis Park in South Africa taking the crown.