Nigel Owens on how the O'Driscoll and O'Connell captaincy dynamic worked 2 years ago

Nigel Owens on how the O'Driscoll and O'Connell captaincy dynamic worked

Business up front. Party at the back.


Between Paul O'Connell and Brian O'Driscoll, the two legends of Irish rugby captained their country 111 times. From 2002 to 2015, apart from the odd Test match, O'Connell (28 times) or O'Driscoll (83) had the honour of captaining their country.

While the trend in world rugby is for forwards to captain their teams, there have been some notable exceptions. As former England flanker James Haskell noted on a recent House of Rugby, the first two World Cup trophies were lifted by backs - David Kirk (New Zealand in 1987) and Nick Farr-Jones (Australia in 1991).

In the seven tournaments since, winning captains have been from the pack. The last three British & Irish Lions Test match captains have been forwards too.

On JOE UK's House of Rugby, Welsh referee Nigel Owens joined Haskell and host Alex Payne to go back through a rugby career that has seen him officiate the world's top players in some of the most exciting games. Haskell took the opportunity to ask Owens if it's makes a difference to a team having a forward or a back as captain.


Owens spoke well on the matter and touched on a recent Irish example - of O'Driscoll and O'Connell - as one way a team can get the best of both worlds.

"It has it's advantages when you have a forward for a captain," Owens began.

"Ireland, for example, in their heyday, had Brian O'Driscoll as the captain but Paul O'Connell as their pack leader. Pretty much most of the conversations you had would be with Paul O'Connell. And if you wanted to speak to the captain - if there was something more serious and you needed Drico to speak to you - then you'd give him a shout.

"He always used to say, 'Nigel, I'm captain. Give me a shout if you need me. Otherwise, Paul will deal with it.'

"Yeah, I can see the advantages of having a captain who is close in with the referee is, but if you've got a good captain, I'm not sure it really matters where he is, to be honest.

"But if you are out on the wing and out of the way, you could be well out of the action. Whereas if you're close in, you can have that little conversation and say the things that could work better than if you are a good bit out. It all depends on your captain. If you've got a good captain, I don't think it matters where he is."


During the same show, Owens told a great story about his mentor, and former TMO, Derek Bevan and how the pair used a code word - taken from Only Fools And Horses - to let him know if he had made a mistake in a game.

Owens had plenty more funny and, at times, deeply personal and touching stories to tell during his appearance on the show.


He also spoke well on how he feels there are too many substitutions in modern rugby. Not only does it interrupt the flow of the game, but it should lead to players reducing bulk and size and, as a result, mean less injuries.

The one player to make him briefly forget he was a referee and become a fan again? Bryan Habana when he blazed in two wonderful tries against New Zealand in 2013, at Ellis Park.