An alarming record under Rugby World Cup final referee Nigel Owens makes for unpleasant reading for Wallabies captain Stephen Moore, who has been left stunned by Australia’s dismal numbers.
To a man, the Wallabies praised Owen’s appointment but there might be concerns they haven’t beaten the All Blacks in three Tests which he’s officiated, heading into Saturday’s World Cup final against the defending champions.
Australia have lost four of their past five Tests under Owens, including the 41-13 Eden Park drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks in August and, in their past 10, have lost the penalty count seven times – trailing a cumulative penalty count 112-74 in that period.
Their overall record, of seven wins and seven losses in his Tests, isn’t much better, given the Wallabies’ Test match-winning strike rate is much better than 50 per cent.
“I didn’t even know that,” said Moore, who said Owens’ consistency was what made him the perfect choice.
“I think he’s had a great tournament. He’s been a top referee for a long time.
“He’s got a very good communication with the players and he’s very approachable within reason and that’s important, I think.”
Owens’ humorous off-the-cuff communication with players has drawn some attention this World Cup after delivering a stinging sledge to Scotland playmaker Stuart Hogg – accusing him of taking a dive during a pool game against South Africa at the home of English Premier League side Newcastle.
“Dive like that again and come back here in two weeks and play (when the football is on),” Owens told Hogg.
Champion Wallabies flanker David Pocock described Owens as one of the game’s characters, but wouldn’t reveal any of the sledges he’d been hit with from the Welshman.
“People love him for the way he interacts with players and his honesty out there on the field, the cheeky little remarks,” he said.
“It’s always good fun.
“I think he’s the best ref in the world at the moment so very well-deserved appointment.
“I’ve been reffed by him a number of times and I find his communication and everything really good.”
Moore also confirmed the Wallabies had placed a heavy focus this week on correcting their ill-discipline in games.
In the past two weeks, since the World Cup entered the knockout stages, the Wallabies have conceded 30 points through penalties – a concerning statistic when coming up against the world-class boot of rugby union’s all-time leading pointscorer Dan Carter.
“We have talked about that. And we talked about it last week as well but there are fine lines,” Moore said.
“But there are penalties that we know we can control – things like offside – that’s really important we stay disciplined.
“But we always know that around the breakdown, tackle area, that’s an area that both teams are constantly pushing the boundaries on.
“Sometimes you’re going to be on the wrong side of that.
“We certainly want to continue testing every possession out there but we have to be really clever about how we do that.”
WALLABIES RECORD UNDER NIGEL OWENS:
* Australia bt Italy 23-18, Rome, 2006
* New Zealand bt Australia 26-12, Auckland, 2007
* Australia bt Fiji 55-12, Montpellier, 2007
* Australia bt England 27-17, Perth, 2010
* Australia bt USA 67-5, Wellington, 2011
* New Zealand bt Australia 22-0, Auckland, 2012
* Australia bt South Africa 26-19, Perth, 2012
* France bt Australia 33-6, Paris, 2012
* Australia bt Argentina 14-13, Perth, 2013
* South Africa bt Australia 28-10, Cape Town, 2014
* Argentina bt Australia 21-17, Mendoza, 2014
* France bt Australia 29-26, Paris, 2014
* Australia bt South Africa 24-20, Brisbane, 2015
* New Zealand bt Australia 41-13, Auckland, 2015
Record: Played 14, won 7, lost 7
New Zealand v Australia: 3-0 NZ