‘It’s natural’: Nigel Owens explains the simple reason why he spoke Welsh during France v Italy game

Nigel Owen. Picture by Florian Christoph (CC BY 2.0).

Nigel Owens has explained the simple reason he spoke Welsh in the France and Italy game.

The referee told Claire Summers on Radio Wales that the reason he shouted instructions at Italian scrum-half Stephen Varney in the language that it was natural for him to do so and he is proud to speak it.

Welsh-born Stephen Varney qualifies to play for Italy through his Italian mother, Valeria, but comes from Rhoshill, Pembrokeshire, and played for Crymych RFC.

Varney, who’s club is Gloucester Rugby, made his international debut for Italy, from the bench, in the Autumn Nations Cup against Scotland, before playing against France on Saturday.

Nigel Owens shouted at Varney to “aros” to ensure that he didn’t drift offside during the game, and then had a conversation with him about it being OK to pop the ball into the scrum in the “canol” – the middle.

 

‘Raise the profile’

Nigel said: “I was speaking to him because he was a fluent Welsh speaker himself, went to school in Crymych and it was natural to do. That’s what you do as a Welsh speaker, first language. You naturally speak Welsh, so it was natural for me to do so.

“I wasn’t speaking Welsh out there and thinking, I’m going to make a point here so everybody knows I can speak Welsh or raise the profile of the Welsh language.

“It’s natural to do, and I’m very proud of my language and I speak it every opportunity I can, but I do it because I’m proud of it and it’s natural to do so, and it’s the same for him because that was his natural first language.”

Owens became the first to take charge of 100 Tests when he officiated the Autumn Nations Cup match between France and Italy.

The 49-year-old is planning to retire at the end of this season, and perhaps wanted to celebrate the occasion by speaking his native tongue.

The game ended in another defeat for Italy as they succumbed to a flurry of late tries, losing 36-5 at the Stade de France.

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