Since retiring from refereeing in the men’s professional game, Nigel Owens has accepted a role with the Daily Mail as a columnist. You can see the logic behind the invitation to write for the Mail as Owen’s expertise will give fans a greater understanding of incidents during the weekend’s game and, in doing so, drive supporters onto the publication’s website to get Owens’ view on all the hot topics.
There was a clamour for Owens’ weekly article after the Six Nations tie between England and Italy. It was a game that England won but by no means dominated, despite winning by a margin of 21 points. There is a growing feeling that all isn’t quite right in the England camp, and the Six Nations 2021 odds available online at Paddy Power suggests that it will be a bit of a battle for Eddie Jones’ men to retain their title having been priced at 3/1 second-favourites to be crowned 2021 champions.
Part of that concern is based around Owen Farrell’s on-field temperament which landed the fly-half in trouble with none other than retired referee turned columnist Nigel Owens.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) July 2, 2019
The 29-year-old found himself in hot water in Owens’ weekly thoughts as the former referee told him to stop the excess chat towards the referee and even went as far as to say that ‘we don’t want that creeping into the game.’ Farrell had been unusually chatty towards Scottish referee Mike Adamson during the game and Owens’ fear is that this type of behaviour will encourage younger players who look up to the England captain to do it more often.
The insinuation from Owens is that rugby should do everything it can do to avoid becoming like football, where the players get away with abusing the referee. For football fans, it’s a rather pretentious take, given that the relationships between players and referees work due to their robust back and forth. Although a law was passed in 2016 that gave referees the authority to send a footballer off for swearing at them, you’ll still notice many players launching verbal assaults on the refs in the Premier League. Sometimes the referees also give it back and that’s the unique nature of football in England.
But those in rugby circles fear the day when that respect between player and referee goes. This is why Nigel Owens felt that Owen Farrell needed a very public slap on the wrist and you’ll find the majority of rugby fans would thoroughly concur with what was written in his column.
“This is not soccer.”
Nigel Owens has called time on his international rugby refereeing career after 100 Tests.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 11, 2020
In this sense, Owens was right to remind Farrell of the unwritten code of conduct given the global fan base he has.
In some respects, it’s amazing that the rugby has managed to avoid mutiny on the pitch up until now but it won’t be far away if the captain of England begins to do it on a weekly basis in front of millions of fans. Nigel Owens knows as much and will work to keep any insurrection at bay by calling players out in his column.