Owens: Referees need to clamp down on player chats

Former international rugby referee Nigel Owens says match officials need to be less talkative with players during a game as it could open the door for more dissent.

Owens made the comment in a column for the Telegraph, focusing on areas where referees can improve ahead of the 2023 World Cup in France.

Owens also writes referees need to balance enforcing the laws with empathy, while there also needs to be a clearer directive with foul play, mitigation and red cards.

The Welshman, who holds the world record for the most Test matches refereed, had a reputation for his quips with players during matches, but called on referees to be more balanced in how often they speak to players.

“One other area that needs to be addressed, and it is not a major issue yet but has been creeping in over recent months, is the amount referees talk to players,” Owens said.

“It comes up with the Welsh referees who I coach, who I am trying to get out of the habit. I see them talking almost too much with players, who talk them out of decisions. There is a time for communication and there needs to be a balance. But the more you talk in a game, the more you open yourself up to have a two-way conversation, and players feel they can talk to you about anything.

“We are seeing more of referees going ‘Don’t do that, mate’, which makes players feel: ‘I am speaking to my mate here, I can say whatever I want’. I would like to see less of that, and it’s why a hint of dissent has come into the game recently. Communication is important, but it does not have to be constant. Less is often more. There is no need for a debate on the field.”

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Dylan Jack