Man in the middle: Nigel Owens is one of Europe's elite referees overseeing TRC

Man in the middle: Nigel Owens is one of Europe’s elite referees overseeing seven of the next eight TRC matches

By Alan Dymock

IT’S ALWAYS nice to be wanted. It must be a strange feeling for referees, though.

In an age where the men in the middle are as professional as players and criticised as openly as them in the media as well, it is interesting to note that Northern Hemisphere refs are desired for the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest competition. One only needs to hear the cliché about the difference between the interpretation of rules between the two zones to know there may be some grumblings, but still the best officials from Europe are getting top gigs in the south.

Hard to miss: Luminous George Clancy

Hard to miss: The luminous Irish referee George Clancy

In the next eight Rugby Championship fixtures there will be no less than seven games refereed by Europeans, with European officials running touch in all of them.

On September 7, George Clancy will referee Australia versus South Africa with Nigel Owens manning the flag alongside familiar Kiwi Glen Jackson, formerly of Saracens. On the same day, Jerome Garces will be refereeing New Zealand versus Argentina, with Romain Poite on touch.

The teams of two stick together and swap roles the next round, with Owens and assistant Clancy overseeing Australia versus Argentina and Poite and Garces looking after New Zealand and South Africa.

All will be involved right through to the conclusion, with Garces reffing the Springboks and Wallabies game on September 28 and then Owens and Wayne Barnes overseeing the South Africa versus New Zealand game and the Argentina versus Australia game respectively.

There always seems a big fuss whenever a SANZAR referee comes over for the Six Nations, but there is clearly a difference in trust. A third of last year’s Six Nations’ games was overseen by Southern Hemisphere referees, but imagine the uproar if over half the games were whistled by non-Europeans?

The only true shame is that there is no Argentine referee deemed good enough by the IRB to oversee a Rugby Championship match.