Nigel Owens has backed Wales’ flyer Louis Rees-Zammit to force his way into the British & Irish Lions reckoning.
Owens is the first referee to officiate 100 test matches and has seen his fair share of world-class players. The former test official has picked out the young Wales winger after a number of standout performance for Wayne Pivac, bagging a brace against Scotland and impressing against England last weekend.
With head coach Warren Gatland a keen observer at the Principality Stadium last Saturday, the Gloucester flyer won’t have done his chances of a Lions call-up any harm at all.
Owens, speaking to the World Rugby website, believes Rees-Zammit has been on a “different level”.
“In this year’s Six Nations, I think as a newcomer, he’s way above everybody else,” he said.
“He’s a different level. Put your money on him going to South Africa with the Lions. I reckon, if he carries on the way he is, he’ll be on that plane… or on the bus."
Owens also had his say on the circumstances that surrounded Wales’ opening two tries in Cardiff.
“Let's deal with the first one, Josh Adams' try. Now, there's nothing in the law that says the referee must wait for the opposition to get lined up to defend,” Owens sai
“The interesting bit here is that the referee actually stopped the clock, asked Owen Farrell to speak to his players about their discipline, quite rightly so and very good refereeing management by the referee then.
“But, I think, then you must check that they're ready before you restart the game. So personally, if I was refereeing, I would have checked to make sure that England were ready.”
“So, imagine a player going for an interception sticks his hand out, juggles the ball upwards, which is travelling forwards but fails to catch it so knocks it backwards. That is still deemed a knock-on because he's failed to regain possession of the ball.
“So, in this instance, my humble opinion is Rees-Zammit's hand clearly touches the ball, the ball is then travelling forward as is Rees-Zammit before it then hits his thigh, then off the back of his leg and then backwards.
“So, because Rees-Zammit failed to regain possession of the ball, under law, that then is a knock-on. But also, as I said, we must appreciate these decisions are always difficult decisions to make.”