Owens to referee World Cup decider

Welshman Nigel Owens will referee Saturday’s World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham, World Rugby announced on Monday.

It will be the first final for the 44-year-old veteran of 67 Tests, who will be assisted by France’s Jerome Garces and England’s Wayne Barnes, the referees from last weekend’s semi-finals.

Owens was one of the first top figures in the world of rugby to announce he is gay in 2007.

“This is a huge honour and a privilege for me. I am humbled to have been chosen to referee the Rugby World Cup final,” said Owens.

“This is my third World Cup and I think it has been the best.

“It has been inspirational. The quality of rugby on display has been incredible in front of packed venues and so to be given the opportunity to referee the final match between the best two teams in the tournament is an amazing honour.”

Owens is the second Welshman to referee the World Cup final after Derek Bevan, who controlled the 1991 final that saw Australia beat hosts England.

Owens came out with one of the remarks of the tournament when he said: “you can come back in a fortnight and do that” to Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg when he was punished for diving at English football club Newcastle United’s ground.

Rugby fans loved the dig at the reputation of rival footballers for diving.

Owens said he was delighted that his father would see his son had achieved the greatest accolade a rugby referee could receive.

He said being named for Saturday’s final was extra special because of difficult moments he had experienced.

Owens admitted to the Wales on Sunday newspaper in 2007 that he had contemplated suicide because of how hard it would be to tell his parents of his homosexuality, as he was their only child.

“I want to thank my friends and family for their ongoing support and for helping me through some rough times in my life,” said Owens on Monday.

“My dad, in particular, is always there for me and is delighted with this news – it’s just a shame my mother is not here to see this as she was a pillar of strength for me.

“She passed away six years ago and I know she would have been very proud.”

While he was criticised by France coach Philippe Saint-Andre for not seeing a punch that Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien delivered to lock Pascal Pape in a pool game, Owens received glowing praise from former All Black great and now selector Grant Fox.

“Nigel is clearly the best referee in the world – he’s demonstrated that,” Fox told New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB on Saturday.

“One of the key things he does, apart from communicating incredibly well with the players, is that he lets the breakdown breathe, and that is really important.”

Irishman John Lacey has been appointed the referee of Friday’s third-place match between two-time world champions South Africa and Argentina.

He will be assisted by Kiwi duo Glen Jackson and Chris Pollock.

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