Referee Nigel Owens awarded an MBE

Date published: June 12 2016

Leading referee Nigel Owens has been an awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours this weekend.

Owens, who took charge of last year's Rugby World Cup final, received the award for services to sport on the same weekend as he became the most-capped referee of all time, having taking charge of his 71st Test in the Pacific Nations Cup game between Fiji and Tonga.

World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Nigel is a fantastic ambassador for rugby and a wonderful person, whose enthusiasm and passion for the game shines through every time he takes to the field.

“The honour is fitting and much-deserved recognition for a man who has not just achieved at the highest level in the sport, but has also done so much for the sport and sporting inclusivity.

“On behalf of World Rugby and the global rugby family, I would like to extend our congratulations to rugby’s most capped international referee.”

Owens said: “It's a huge honour to be recognised in this way. Refereeing has opened up so many doors to me since I took up the whistle as a teenager, as soon as I realised I wasn't going to make it as a player.

"Refereeing, and becoming a full-time WRU referee has enabled me to play a part in some of the biggest club and international matches and occasions in world rugby, and of course taking charge of the Rugby World Cup final last year was one of the most memorable events in world sport and I'm grateful for every opportunity.”

Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies said:"Wales has always produced great international referees, from the likes of Gwynne Walters to the previous most capped Welsh referee, Derek Bevan.

"However, it is fair to say that Nigel is certainly one of the best referees in the professional age, if not the best. Rugby union makes huge demands on match officials in the modern era, but Nigel not only manages games to the best of his ability, his impeccable communication and refereeing skills enabling him to play a key part in some of the best club and international matches in recent years, but he's able to add humour and humility in equal measure."