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Why was Nigel Owens speaking Welsh during the France v Italy game?

28 Nov 2020 2 minute read
Nigel Owen. Picture by Florian Christoph (CC BY 2.0).

Referee Nigel Owens spoke Welsh in the France and Italy game – as he shouted instructions at Italian scrum-half Stephen Varney.

Stephen Varney qualified for Italy through his Italian mother, Valeria, but comes from Rhoshill, Pembrokeshire, and played for Crymych RFC.

Varney made his international debut for Italy, from the bench, in the Autumn Nations Cup against Scotland, before playing against France today.

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.

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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