By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) – Welsh referee Nigel Owens said he was surprised to find his latest quip in the Canada v Italy Rugby World Cup match had become an internet sensation and laughed off suggestions that he practised his lines before matches.
Owens was speaking to Canadian captain Tyler Ardron after a series of offences in the Sept. 26 game in Fukuoka and said: “I won’t give you a second warning. Speak to your side, the next time will be a card…and speak to yourself as well because you’re the one giving away the penalties.”
Owens said he received a text later saying that the clip had gone viral.
Describing the incident in his column on the Walesonline website, he said: “As I spoke, Tyler looked at me with a bit of cheeky mischief in his eyes. I realised that as I was telling him this, he had been the one actually committing the offences.
“‘So speak to yourself as well’, I suddenly said as an aside.
“People ask me if I practise these one-liners, but I most certainly do not. I only said what came naturally. It was completely off the cuff, dealing with the game itself.”
“As I was speaking to him, it just occurred to me there and then Tyler was the one infringing, so I kind of pointed that out. Afterwards it seemed to then go viral.
“As referees, you don’t want to be the talking point after games. If people are talking about the rugby, and what a great game it was full of thrilling tries, you know you’ve done your job properly.
“I guess this was a little different, though. If people are talking about you positively, it’s no bad thing.”
Owens, who will take charge of England v Argentina in Tokyo on Saturday, has something of a reputation for on-field quips but is highly regarded by players and officials and refereed the 2015 World Cup final.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)