Nigel Owens shared the pitch with some titans of rugby in his time as a referee, and in the first episode of his hilarious new show, Whistle Watch, he reveals who hit hardest.
World Rugby has teamed up with Owens to produce a brand new weekly YouTube show that takes a sideways look at the news from rugby, and beyond.
Viewers also have the chance to pick the brains of the Rugby World Cup 2015 final referee and can submit their questions through social media.
In this week’s episode Connor Anderson asked Owens about the hardest tackle he ever saw on a rugby pitch — and the former ref gave an unlikely answer.
“I think that was probably on me!” Owens said. “2010, South Africa against New Zealand in Soccer City in Soweto.
“Schalk Burger tackled Jimmy Cowan, but unfortunately he tackled me at the same time.”
Owens might be able to laugh about his collision with Burger, but he had little sympathy for Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony, who was sent off during his side’s Six Nations defeat to Wales in Cardiff last weekend.
“Wayne Barnes quite rightly showed the red card because you cannot enter the ruck like that and make contact with the player's head. Player safety is paramount,” he said.
“You have to enter the ruck and clear out on your feet. You come in low, take the player, your arms are out, move him out of the way. And, then if you go to ground afterwards, then that's fine. But, you cannot enter the ruck like that, it's dangerous and that is a red card.”
Falling in love with rugby
It should come as little surprise that the Six Nations, a tournament the Welshman officiated in for 13 years, holds a special place in Owens’ heart.
But, did you know that it was a Championship match — and subsequent farmyard training session — that first got the official interested in rugby?
“Always a great game, Scotland-Wales. That was the game that I fell in love with rugby the first time, back in 1977 — I was six years of age,” he said.
“Phil Bennett scored that wonderful try up in Murrayfield and I remember going out in the field behind my house in Mynyddcerrig with a little rugby ball and playing in the field, pretending to be Phil Bennett.
“And, in the field there were two donkeys, they were called Chocolate and Fudge. I remember sidestepping the donkeys, running underneath them, chipping over them and pretending to be Phil Bennett. So, always fond memories of Scotland-Wales.”
Owens hung up his whistle at the end of 2020, but he thinks he might have unearthed a new official to take his place — Jackie Weaver!
The Welshman gave his verdict on the Handforth Parish Council meeting, which went viral last week: “Fair play to you, Jackie, you were always in control of the situation, stood in the right place on the field and made the appropriate and, more importantly, accurate decisions.
“You have no authority here, Jackie? I'm afraid she does.”