Nigel Owens and George Clancy – who are both among the elite panel of 10 officials named for refereeing duty at the World Cup in New Zealand later in the year – have been appointed to control the high profile and prestigious Magners League Play-Off semi-finals this weekend.
Leading Welsh official Owens will be in charge when top seeds Munster meet No 4 seeds and defending champions the Ospreys at Thomond Park on Saturday evening (Kick-Off 6.30pm).
Irishman Clancy will be in action on the Friday night when second seeds Leinster clash with Ulster Rugby in the all-Irish play-off match at the RDS (Kick-Off 7.05pm).
Owens and Clancy were also in charge of last season’s semi-finals – Owens controlling the victory by Leinster over Munster at the RDS and Clancy taking charge of the Ospreys’ home win over Glasgow Warriors.
Both officials are rated among the world’s top referees and on 9 September Clancy will have the honour of blowing the whistle for the start of the 2011 Rugby World Cup when he takes charge of the opener between hosts New Zealand and Tonga at Eden Park.
The 34-year-old from Limerick, who has been in the middle for 13 internationals, will also be in the spotlight next weekend when he referees the Amlin Challenge Cup final between Harlequins and Stade Francais Paris at Cardiff City Stadium.
Owens, the 37-year-old from Mynyddcerrig, has been in charge of 27 Tests as well as back-to-back Heineken Cup finals in 2008 and 2009.
The Irish venue for the Magners League Grand Final on Saturday, 28 May, will be announced after Saturday’s semi-final play-off.
GEORGE CLANCY FACTFILE
Born: 12.01.77 in Limerick
Occupation: Civil Servant
Magners League debut: Borders v Newport Gwent Dragons, October 2004
Magners League appearances: 40
International appearances: 14
NIGEL OWENS FACTFILE
Born: 18.06.73 in Mynyddcerrig
Occupation: Professional referee, TV presenter and entertainer
Magners League debut: Borders v Connacht, August 2002
Magners League appearances: 73
International appearances: 27