‘Don’t touch me!’ – Welsh international referee channels inner Nigel Owens to admonish handsy coach

Colin Newboult
Referee Ben Whitehouse during Dragons' United Rugby Championship clash with the Ospreys in 2023.

Referee Ben Whitehouse during Dragons' United Rugby Championship clash with the Ospreys in 2023.

Referee Ben Whitehouse was involved in a tense altercation with the Dragons’ Dan Baugh during Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash.

The former Canada international had been the team’s water-carrier during the first half, but he was banned from doing those duties for the second period.

Just prior to half-time, Dragons fly-half Will Reed was caught by a high shot from Ospreys’ Mat Protheroe. It would eventually result in a red card for Protheroe but before the officials had come to a decision, Baugh made his feelings clear to Whitehouse.

Received a warning

The referee took exception to the 49-year-old as he said: “Dan, listen to me very clearly. If you ever shout at me like that again, you will be in the stand.

Baugh responded: “Ben, I’m talking to my players. I can talk to my players,” before placing his hands on the arm of the official.

Whitehouse had no time for the actions of the Dragons’ head of performance, saying: “Don’t you touch me,” and told the team manager on the sideline that he would not be returning.

“This man stays off the field from now on,” he added.

Former Wales, Ospreys and Dragons hooker Richard Hibbard was quick to praise Whitehouse for how he dealt with the matter.

“Dan Baugh is a huge influence on the sideline. He’s very overzealous and gets the boys up for the game,” he said on Viaplay.

“He’s got a bit too excited there, and Ben’s taken offence to it. Fair play to Ben; not many would do that.”

Nigel Owens comparisons

The referee has in the past been compared to fellow Welshman Nigel Owens, who was known for his no-nonsense approach to dissent when officiating but also his witticisms.

Whitehouse was similarly direct when addressing Daugh, while his slightly comical “Don’t you touch me” brought back memories of the now-retired Owens.

The 33-year-old has refereed several games at Test match level but was selected as a television match official for the Rugby World Cup.

His final match of the tournament was as TMO for the bronze final between England and Argentina, which was won by the Red Rose, 26-23.

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