The Champions Cup semi-finals are fast approaching. With just over a week until kickoff, European rugby has today announced who will be taking charge of each encounter.
Our #ChampionsCup semi-final referees!
▪️Munster v Saracens – Romain Poite
▪️Clermont v Leinster – Nigel Owens pic.twitter.com/4d5nEE2FqX
— Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 14, 2017
Munster fans will, no doubt, not be best pleased. Romain Poite and the province have had a tumultuous relationship in the past. Nothing better typified this relationship than the clashes he enjoyed with former captain Paul O’Connell. Munster fans have still not forgiven Poite for issuing a yellow card to talisman O’Connell for back-chat in a European Cup encounter despite speaking as captain.
Nevertheless, he remains a consistent feature as one of the world’s top referees. His performance in the Italy v England 6 Nations game raised a lot of eyebrows at the time but World Rugby praised him in the aftermath for correctly adjudicating the Italian non-engagement tactic at the ruck. The Frenchman is also set to take the whistle for the Lions’ last test against New Zealand this summer.
Owens’ appointment is of no great surprise. Many people regard the Welsh whistler as the best the game has to offer. This Saturday he takes charge of his 150th Pro 12 fixture in the Welsh derby game between Scarlets and Dragons at the Principality Stadium.
It will be interesting to see if his recent spat with Luke Fitzgerald will provide some extra scrutiny of his performance. No doubt Owens will continue with his usual witty and insightful chatter with the players he has become famous for. At the end of the day, we’re in for a treat with four great teams with two of the best in the business in the middle.