Rugby

Owens labels McCaw toughest of rugby's tough guys

2018-05-14 12:27
Richie McCaw (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Outspoken referee Nigel Owens has hailed former All Blacks great Richie McCaw as the hardest man he's seen on a rugby field.

Owens, in his weekly column for WalesOnline, has hit back at widely reported recent assertions from England loose forward James Haskell that the game had gone "soft" on the back of him being penalised for a high tackle in his home finale for Wasps.

According to the Stuff website, the openly gay Welsh referee who won plaudits for his condemnation of Israel Folau's recent controversial comments, has taken issue with Haskell's lament that rugby had become "a bit of a pathetic sport" with its hardline stance on high hits.

Owens wrote in his column that despite rugby cleaning up the "dirty" aspects that had prevailed in earlier eras, it remained as tough a game as it had ever been. He then cited the recently retired McCaw as a prime example of that.

"The game is definitely cleaner at the top level than it was in the 1970s or 1980s. But does that make it softer? No, it does not," said Owens in his column.

"Some see the rugby of 30 or 40 years ago as the good old days, but were those days really that good? You hear horror stories about players getting booted at the bottom of rucks, about stamping and head-butting. Call me old-fashioned but that's not the kind of game I would want to be part of.

Then he went for McCaw as the "hardest man" he had encountered on a rugby pitch.

"(He was) capped 148 times by New Zealand despite playing in the most attritional of positions where every game he would be required to throw himself into harm's way, perhaps by locking himself over possession and soaking up the attention of immensely powerful forwards who would do everything they could to wipe him off the ball.

"That's what I call a genuine hard man."

Read more on:    nigel owens  |  richie mccaw  |  rugby
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