‘Glad I retired’ – Nigel Owens slams disciplinary decision after ‘reckless’ act

Jared Wright
Referee Nigel Owens and a screenshot of Josh Caulfield's stamp on Finlay Bealham in the Champions Cup.

Referee Nigel Owens and a screenshot of Josh Caulfield's stamp on Finlay Bealham in the Champions Cup.

Nigel Owens is happy to be retired after a disciplinary decision from the Investec Champions Cup left him puzzled.

The Welshman is highly regarded as one of the best referees the game has seen, becoming the first official to take charge of 100 Test matches.

Owens hung up his whistle in 2020 but still posts his opinions on referee decisions on social media, and this week, a decision from an independent disciplinary panel left the former match official perplexed.

Josh Caulfield’s red card and no ban

The incident occurred during Friday evening’s clash between the Bristol Bears and Connacht when lock Josh Caulfield was issued a red card for stamping prop Finlay Bealham.

Referee Pierre Brousset issued the red card to Caulfield after being prompted by his TMO, and the lock subsequently faced a disciplinary hearing in the days that followed.

However, the sending-off in Bristol’s 27-10 defeat would be Caulfield’s only punishment despite the panel deciding that he did commit an act of foul play.

An EPCR statement confirming that the lock had not been suspended for his action read: “The committee determined that Caulfield had committed an act of foul play. However, it found that the offence did not warrant a red card and the red card decision was therefore overturned.”

Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 9.12, stamping or trampling carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-range: 6 weeks; Top End: 12 to 52 weeks.

Owens felt that the issue with the decision is that the panel deemed the act to be foul play but that it didn’t warrant a red card.

Nigel Owens’ reaction

He responded to a post by Peter Jackson on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, which read: “Rugby’s capacity for making itself a laughing stock knows no bounds. A disciplinary panel finds Josh Caulfield guilty of foul play but that ‘the offence did not warrant a red card.’ So a reckless boot to the head is ok? And the game keeps spouting on about player welfare.”

In response, Owens wrote: “How can they say this is foul play but not red card. If it’s not foul play and complete accident then play on. If It’s reckless and foul play then it has to be RC. For what it’s worth it’s a RC for me as it’s not a natural action of rucking and reckless. Glad I retired.”

The former match official even to a reader who asked whether he would take into account that Caulfield copping a boot in the face from his teammate Kyle Sinckler played a role in the incident.

“If you think that causes this then play on no foul play. Am not to sure myself so if it is foul play then it has to be RC,” Owens replied.

Another read wrote: “Schroedinger’s rucking – foul play but not sufficiently foul to be worth a red card…”

Owens again replied saying: “A stamp on the head is a RC. So it’s either no foul play just pure accident or if it’s foul play it’s a RC. You’re either driving over the speed limit and get points or your not and drive on.”

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