Nigel Owens: Welshman on becoming the first to referee 100 Tests

Nigel Owens referees England v Georgia November 2020
Nigel Owens' 99th Test as referee was England against Georgia earlier this month

Nigel Owens will become the first referee to take charge of 100 Tests when he officiates the Autumn Nations Cup match between France and Italy on Saturday.

The historic milestone will be the latest in a long and illustrious career for the Welshman, who refereed the 2015 Rugby World Cup final as well as several European club finals.

Saturday's match in Paris could also be his last in international rugby, with the 49-year-old planning to retire at the end of this season.

But Owens has not had much time to consider his looming achievement this week, not when he has been busy working on his Carmarthenshire farm.

"It's been a strange one this week because I had TB [bovine tuberculosis] testing on the farm on Monday and thankfully everything was fine," Owens tells BBC Sport Wales.

"It's been a stressful week so the game itself has been far from my mind this week with the TB testing, which can be heart-breaking if the result is positive - but thankfully everything was negative and all was good thankfully.

"Now I'm able to switch my focus to the weekend and the build-up to it, reaching a very special milestone.

"It is something that you think about, something that you'd like to achieve, and I think if any referee or any player tells you 'I'm on 97, 98 or whatever I don't really care or think about getting to 100' then I don't think they're being very honest with you because it is something special, particularly to be the first referee to achieve that.

"I certainly won't be the last but I'll be the first one.

"It is something I'm looking forward to but also a bit of realisation that this could be my last Test match."

Six Nations hope

Owens is the longest serving member of World Rugby's elite international panel, having officiated his first full Test in 2003 when Portugal played Georgia.

He turns 50 next June and, as he prepares to step aside from international rugby at the end of this season, he hopes to play a part in the 2021 Six Nations before bowing out.

"Hopefully I'll be selected for the Six Nations and, if so, that will definitely be the end of my Test match referee career and things will come to an end at the end of this season," he adds.

"We'll have to see, but this could be my last Test match at the weekend. So there is a bit of a realisation around the fact that this could be the last time I walk out on to the field for a Test match.

"There's a little bit of excitement and happiness with it but also maybe a little sadness as well when the final whistle goes."

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Owens has become a household name thanks to his witty rapport with players on the field, as well as his media appearances away from it too.

And beyond his quick one-liners, Owens is respected across the sport as one of the world's finest referees, as evidenced by glowing tributes from England head coach Eddie Jones and his Wales counterpart Wayne Pivac this week.

Having officiated the biggest games in international and club rugby, Owens is spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a career highlight - but refereeing the 2015 World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia stands out.

"I think it is the favourite because of everything around the game off the field," Owens says.

"My village of Mynyddcerrig [in Carmarthenshire, west Wales] had bunting and flags out, everyone in the working men's club that week enjoying themselves and people coming from everywhere.

"There were people driving down from Merthyr, from Pontypool, up from Cardigan, some down from Aberystwyth. People were driving down to see the village I was born in because it was on the news that week.

"What it meant to the village and what it meant to me, the fact that the village was so proud of me achieving that, it was special because of that.

"It's the biggest game in world rugby that only happens once every four years but, even more so, what it meant to my dad, my family and my community of Mynyddcerrig as well as Pontyberem and the Gwendraith Valley as well. That would be the special one."

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