Owens to ref Croker showdown

LEADING referee, Nigel Owens, will take charge of the all-Ireland Heineken Cup semi-final between Munster and Leinster at Croke Park on May 2.

The popular Welsh official has earned a reputation as the champions’ lucky charm, having refereed four of Munster’s Heineken Cup games last season, including the knock-out stages and final against Toulouse.

His latest appointment should also find favour with Munster’s coaching staff and players, who’ve always spoken highly of Owens’ refereeing performances and interpretation of the laws, especially at the breakdown.

This season Owens took charge of Munster’s round five pool game against Sale Sharks in Thomond Park, while he was the man in the middle for Leinster’s dramatic 6-5 win over Harlequins last Sunday.

Ireland’s Alain Rolland, meanwhile, has been appointed for the other semi-final between Cardiff Blues and Leicester Tigers at the Millennium Stadium.

It will Rolland’s fourth tournament semi in charge, matching the record of former Scottish referee and current ERC Board member, Jim Fleming.

For the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup knock-out games, should the match referee withdraw during the game due to injury he will be replaced by the fourth official.

Controversial whistler, Wayne Barnes, has been appointed as fourth official for the Munster-Leinster tie while Alan Lewis will be on standby as Rolland’s deputy in Cardiff.

Another Irish referee, Peter Fitzgibbon, has been handed the plum European Challenge Cup semi-final between Bourgoin and Worcester Warriors at the Stade Pierre Rajon on May 2.

French ref Romain Poite (in charge for Munster vs the All Blacks) will get the big European weekend underway when he referees the Challenge Cup semi between Northampton Saints and Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens on May 1.


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