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Nigel Owens bows out of international Test rugby

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Nigel Owens, the most-capped referee in world rugby, has brought his 17-year international career to an end. Last month’s France v Italy Autumn Nations Cup game was his 100th and final Test match having made his international debut officiating Portugal v Georgia in February 2003.

Owens said, “Nobody has a divine right to go on forever. There comes a time where it’s time to move on so international refereeing will come to end now, that France v Italy game was my last Test match. To go out on 100 is a good time to go.

“I’m not going to be around for 2023, I don’t want to be. I still hope to referee in the Pro 14 and locally in Wales this season and maybe next as well. I will certainly continue to referee in the community game because when you are very fortunate to get so much out of something, I think it’s hugely important that you give something back to it as well.

“I’ll also be going into a coaching role with the WRU, helping some of our talented, young referees we have here in Wales so that is something I’m quite excited about. We currently have five referees including myself refereeing at Pro 14 level so it will be exciting to help them make further progress as well as our other upcoming male and female referees.”

Memories and milestones:
Reaching 100 caps was obviously a bit of a milestone in the end.
“I haven’t refereed in order to reach milestones but obviously when those milestones happen like when you get your first cap, it’s something special. When I got my 50th cap out in Dublin it was Brian O’Driscoll’s last international game in Ireland so that it was quite a special occasion and then obviously as the years go you aim to go to a Rugby World Cup, then another one. After the 2019 world cup, going into the Six Nations, I probably was looking then to call it a day around that time and all of a sudden you’re on 98 Test matches. Thankfully I got another two games and reached that milestone so it is something I’m proud of but more importantly I made my family and community proud which I think is more important.

“I’m sure it’s something I will appreciate more when I’ve got time to think about it – maybe I’ll even watch the 2015 RWC final one day! On a serious note, I think it’s important to set goals, but realistic ones – to take each step and a time and then set a new one.

“Along with refereeing the world cup final and other great internationals like the South Africa v New Zealand game in 2013, and memorable European occasions like the seven Champions Cup final and two Challenge Cup finals, there are many other memories too. One that sticks out was being asked to referee Pencoed under 12s v Cwmbran.

“I turned up the morning after refereeing a Heineken Cup match at Leicester. I’d met the team previously so they gave me a great reception when I arrived but one player in the corner of the changing room said, ‘I hope you’re going to ref this match better than yesterday’s’! I just thought, this is what rugby’s all about and that will always stay in my memory along with many other times.”

Representing Wales
“People ask me, which would you choose – refereeing the Rugby World Cup final or seeing Wales in the world cup final?
“It’s a very easy question – seeing my country in the final. We were so close to getting there in 2011 and 2015 too. Your country always comes first whatever sport you play but the next best thing I suppose was to get to referee there and it was a privilege and honour to represent my country, my community and everyone involved in refereeing and Welsh rugby on that stage.

“My whole village of Mynyddcerrig was just unbelievable that week, it was like a carnival! There was something on every day, the club was packed out every night, there were people driving from places like Pontypridd, Merthyr, Aberystwyth and Cardigan because the club had featured on TV that week and they wanted to be part of it. It was unbelievable what that meant for my community and my dad in particular or something very, very special and that’s what made the world cup final so special for me. The only thing I regret is that I couldn’t be there with them to enjoy it all!”

“I have so many people to thank from Clive Norling, who was the WRU referees manager who gave me my first opportunity, Derek Bevan was my coach for years and other people were a help in different ways from the likes of Bob Yeman and Clayton Thomas, to characters like Alyn West in Llanelli & District. It’s an ongoing process and you learn something from everyone who helps, coaches or assesses you over the years. I’m so grateful to so many different people, I owe the people in rugby and the sport so much and I want to help ensure Wales remains a great officiating nation as it always has been.

“My upbringing too had a big influence on me. Humour and Welshness are a big part of who I am. I was on stage in Mynyddcerrig Club at 14 doing stand-up comedy and I did public speaking with the Young Farmers movement. There’s no doubt that grounding helped my communication skills as a referee.”

On inclusion in rugby:
“Unless you are allowed to be yourself and happy in yourself, you can’t enjoy life or be the best you can be.
“It’s important that we are all treated the same and that we’re judged on our character and nothing else. Not on the colour of your skin, your sexuality, religious beliefs or wherever you come from.

“Those issues did hinder my life growing up and put me in a very dark place for quite a long period in my teens and early 20s but I got a second chance, was allowed to be who I am and I think it’s hugely important everyone gets that opportunity.

“One of the most important values and ethos of rugby union to me is the value of respect. I think today’s society lacks respect but I believe rugby values respect better than any other sport in the world. We can’t take the moral high ground as there are a lot of things that rugby can improve on, but one thing is certain, it does lead on inclusiveness, diversity, fair play and equality for all and that is something I’m very proud to be part of.”

Advice for players
“I would tell any young players, in particular those who have an ambition to make it to the international stage and don’t quite make it for whatever different reason, that refereeing is certainly the next best thing.

“I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve travelled all over the world for the best part of the last 20 years, I’ve played a small part in some of rugby’s greatest occasions and you could be a part of that too if you take up the whistle. We are here to support you. You won’t regret it if it’s something you enjoy and become passionate about. It’s not for everyone, but with a lot of time and effort, it can be hugely enjoyable so I would encourage anyone to give it a good to give it a go.”

WRU chairman Rob Butcher added, “It’s a truly fantastic achievement for a referee to get to 100 caps. Moreover, Nigel has always been and still is a fantastic ambassador for Welsh rugby throughout the world. He’s a role model for many, not only for his refereeing but his communication and the way he conducts all aspects of his life.

“Along with most rugby playing nations, we need to keep recruiting referees, and who better than Nigel to inspire future Welsh match officials. You may not make it as far as you’d like as a player. If that’s the case, why not try refereeing – not necessarily at international level, but whatever your standard may be.”

Nigel Owens’ international career in stats
Nigel Owens refereed his 100th international 17 years after his test debut in February 2003 when he was in the middle for Portugal versus Georgia in Lisbon.
He claimed his 50th cap on 24 November 2012 when he took charge of Ireland v New Zealand in Dublin.
He surpassed Jonathan Kaplan as the most-capped referee when winning his 71st Test cap on 11 June 2016 in Suva when Fiji hosted Tonga.
He was awarded the 2015 Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia on 31 October, 2015.
He was the first referee to reach 100 Tests when in the middle of France v Italy in Paris on 28 November 2020

STATS
Tests as referee: 100
Tests as assistant referee: 101
Tests as TMO: 9
Total: 209
Yellow cards: 58
Red cards: 3
First yellow card: Daisuke Ohata (Japan, v Ireland on 12 June, 2005)
First red card: Napolioni Nalaga (Pacific Islanders, v France on 15 November, 2008) Tries scored in his tests: 495 – ever test has had at least one try scored in it
Points scored in his tests: 4,591
Four Rugby World Cups
Rugby World Cup matches as referee: 19
Record-holder for most Six Nations matches as referee: 21
World Rugby Referee Award recipient in 2015

TEAMS REFEREED
Number of teams refereed: 25. Portugal, Georgia, Japan, Ireland, Argentina, Samoa, Uruguay, Italy, Australia, Morocco, England, New Zealand, Scotland, Romania, Fiji, France, Pacific Islanders, South Africa, Russia, Canada, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tonga, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica
Team refereed the most: New Zealand, 25 tests from 2007-19
Top five teams by Tests: New Zealand (25), England (24), France (24), Ireland (20), Australia (19) Only 13 tests have not involved a Six Nations or Rugby Championship team

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Bush qualifies for Paralympic games

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PEMBROKESHIRE’s Para-taekwondo star Matt Bush has qualified for the Tokyo Paralympic games this summer.

At the European Paralympic Qualification tournament, Bush, who is the current world champion, beat Hungary’s Zoltan Kiss 29-1 in the +75kg final.

Para-taekwondo will make its debut at this summer’s Paralympics with the competition set to take place from September 2-4.

Bush, from St Clears, became Britain’s first ever world champion in the sport in 2019 began his latest tournament in fine style, seeing off Roman Ivaniuk of Ukraine 38-2 in the semi-final.

Matt told BBC Sport that it felt ‘so good’ to have secured his spot in the team.

The heavyweight athlete has made quite the mark on the mats. He has medalled at the Korean Open, Oceania Para Taekwondo Championships and the Pan America Para Taekwondo Open.

The GB team for Tokyo will be officially announced later this summer.

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Lawrenny through in Village Cup

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LAWRENNY are through to the next round of the Village Cup after they beat Llandysul on Sunday (May 9).

Both teams were rained off the previous day but some good work meant that the game was able to go ahead.

Llandysul batted first but were bowled out for 82 in 26.3 overs as Jamie Lewis took five wickets for the visitors.

He went on to finish with figures of 5-22 from his seven overs while the home side’s top scorer was captain Llew Hughes who made a score of 20.

Lawrenny did not have it all their own way in their reply as Rhys Jones bowled well to finish with figures of 3-10.

However, an excellent knock of 52 from Harry Thomas steered Lawrenny to their target inside the 24th over.

Elsewhere, Carew’s game away at Drefach was called off while Cresselly had already received a bye to the next round.

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Lawrenny earn big win over Whitland

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LAWRENNY got their 2021 season off to the perfect start on Saturday (May 1) as they beat Whitland by 189 runs.

Whitland won the toss and elected to field but they could only watch as the home side piled on the runs before being bowled out for 264.

Kyle Marsh top scored with a score of 81 while Kurtis Mars also scored 45.

Tom Cole added 32 and James Phillips chipped in with a score of 29 as they batted well.

Wayne Howells and Jonathan Thomas finished with identical figures of 2-27 as Whitland’s bowling did at least keep the score below 300.

Whitland knew they would need to bat well to knock off the runs needed but came up against Ryan Morton who took four wickets for the loss of 17 runs.

Kurtis Marsh also claimed two wickets without conceding any runs as the visitors chances got smaller and smaller.

Geraint Jones did score 30 for Whitland but that was as good as it got as they were bowled out for just 75.

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