Empathy is key to refereeing claims Nigel Owens

The Welshman spoke to Newstalk Breakfast

BY Daniel Kelly 10:47 Monday 13 February 2017, 10:47 13 Feb 2017

Nigel Owens claims empathy is one of the key traits needed to become a successful rugby referee.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup Final referee was speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, two weeks into the Six Nations. The tournament is the first major international tournament to include new punishments for high tackles.

While the rules have not changed, punishments can now be more severe for guilty parties.

"Players are making a conscious effort to make those tackles a little bit lower, to eliminate the risk of making contact with the head", Owens told Alan Quinlan. "It's hugely important that did happen. We want to make the game as safe as possible"

"If you have looked at the first two rounds of the Six Nations, which has been a great two weekends of good, quality and exiting rugby. It's been uncompromising at times. It's been hard. There's been big hits, but there hasn't been those huge, high hits with force around the head which a lot of people were anticipating. There's been no huge flurry of cards and controversy."

While the rules of rugby are there for all to see, referees can interpret them in different ways. Owens added that knowing the rules was the easiest part of his role. Knowing what situations to follow the letter of the law is the area that is open to most debate.

"The easy part of refereeing is blowing the whistle. Learning that law book and blowing the whistle is the easy part", the 45-year-old admitted. "What sets referees apart - the ones that make it to the very top - are their ability to know when not to blow the whistle. Knowing when to use common sense and empathy in when they have to make a decision that is not as clear as everyone would think it is. If you have that ability to make those decisions, in those instances. That's the sign of a good referee."

Owens has yet to officiate in this year's Six Nations. He takes charge of Ireland's match at home to France in Dublin on February 25th. 

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