Welsh referee Nigel Owens has said that former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio once taught him one of the biggest lessons he has ever had on a rugby pitch.
In his column for Wales Online, Owens recalls a match he refereed at the beginning of his career, between London Wasps, captained by Dallaglio, and French side Toulouse.
And the man in the middle explains just how Dallaglio was able to pull the wool over his eyes.
He wrote in a column for Wales Online: “One of the first lessons I learnt was from refereeing a very good captain and player in my early days – Lawrence Dallaglio.
“When he was captain of Wasps I refereed him against Toulouse in France. I was very inexperienced at the time in the early to mid-2000s.
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“Wasps were defending on their own goal line and Toulouse were attacking phase after phase and seemed destined to score. Dallaglio came round the side of the tackle, lay on the ball for enough time and slowed the ball down and killed the attack for Toulouse.
“When he came around and killed the ball, I stuck my hand up for a penalty and I was going to send him to the bin because it was professional foul in my view. He got up and he said: 'I’m really sorry, that was purely accidental, I thought the ball was out and I was pushed from behind when I realised it wasn’t.'
“And I fell for it. I thought: “That could have been accidental, fair point”, so I penalised him but I didn’t bin him. It was a yellow card offence and I thought at the time that he had not done it because it was a mistiming – accidental not deliberate.
That was a real learning point for me. These things don’t happen by accident and they know exactly what they are doing. No matter who the captain is.”
Owens, who is one of, if not the most recognisable of current referees, also wrote about other leaders he has taken charge of down the years.
“Regarding other captains, I always found Richie McCaw an excellent leader, as well as the likes of Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll of Ireland. They could be in the referee’s face when they knew that they could.
"But they knew with me that they could come and speak to me, but only when the time was right. They knew I wouldn’t put up with them chasing after me or chirping away for the entire match.”
Owens, who refereed the England vs France clash at Twickenham on February 10th, will next be in action on 16th March, where he will be the assistant referee, this time as France take on Italy in their final game of the RBS Six Nations.