Lord’s Taverners host World Cup referee at the CACG

The Lord’s Taverners Somerset Region held its third Christmas Lunch at the Cooper Associates County Ground earlier this month.

The event was sold out two months before the day and almost 300 people sat down in the County Room for an excellent Christmas lunch followed by guest speaker Nigel Owens, one of the best and best known international rugby union referees.

Nigel is best known for refereeing the World Cup final in 2015 and England’s semi final win against the All Blacks in Japan this year. He also recently refereed his home country of Wales in a match against the Barbarians at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

We caught up with Nigel during the lunch to discuss a number of subjects.

“I think I’m more nervous speaking in front of 290 people here today than I was refereeing in front of 65,000 people at the Principality Stadium last week,” he said. “It’s great to be here and it’s such a lovely cricket ground. It’s very scenic and it’s great to be here for such a worthy cause. The Lord Taverners charity is hugely important because of what they do and how much they raise.”

It wasn’t the first time that Nigel had been to the Cooper Associates County Ground as he explained.

“I spoke here once before at a St Austell Brewery event and it’s a lovely place. It’s the perfect setting for a cricket ground, with the churches in the background. I imagine that when the sun is shining, the cricket is being played and the ground is full it’s a wonderful place to be.

Is Nigel a big cricket fan?

“I do follow cricket a little,” he said. “If Glamorgan are playing in a big game, I usually watch that. I also like to watch the Ashes when I get a chance. I play for my local cricket club Pontyberem too. I’ve played a couple of games for their seconds badly, but I help them now and again. I appreciate the sport and I was invited by Tony Cottey of Glamorgan to ring the bell for an England versus India match at Cardiff a couple of years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed that, and it was a really exciting day. When I get a bit more time in the future, I can certainly imagine myself sitting down and watching a few T20s.”

Just days before his appearance in Taunton, Nigel refereed Wales in Cardiff against the Barbarians, which is something that will live long in his memory.

“It was a very special day for me,” he said. “It was a little bit strange actually standing on the field singing my national anthem and then refereeing my Country. It was very enjoyable, and it was a wonderful experience. To see 65,000 people at the Principality Stadium for a Barbarians match was very special.”

What was it like to be a part of the recent Rugby Union World Cup in Japan?

“The atmosphere at the World Cup was great,” he explained. “The Japanese public really got behind it and supported it well. There were some great games of rugby and it was very enjoyable to be out there. It was a great showcase for the game and Japan did rugby proud.”

Nigel has released an autobiography which has been widely praised for the way in which he deals with a number of subjects.

“I was asked to write an autobiography about 10 years ago but I didn’t think that I’d achieved a lot at that point and I didn’t want my private life out there in the public. When you do an autobiography, it has to be an honest account. Publishers came back to me a couple of times over the next few years and after I came out and a few extracts appeared in the papers about my coming out story, I received a lot of messages from people and parents thanking me for sharing my story. They said that it had helped them and members of their families.

“Someone said that it had saved their child’s life because he felt able to tell his parents about why he had tried to take his own life. I thought that if I can actually help people then let’s share the story. That’s how the book came about. To be told that you’ve helped, or inspired people means a lot. It’s important to share your experiences when you’ve gone through something difficult because you can help other people and also help yourself get through it too.”

Nigel was ably supported on the day by Josh Daniels, a comedian from the North East who combined his comedy routine with a guitar solo and an interesting take on the lyrics of popular songs! The whole event was compered for a second year by another Welshman Rhys ap William, an actor best known for being the voice of The Principality Stadium at international rugby matches in the Welsh capital.

The lunch was a great success and with an auction conducted by Martyn Venner of Greenslade Taylor Hunt and a raffle. The event raised over £15,000 to help Lord’s Taverners in their work in the Somerset area to give disabled and disadvantaged children a sporting chance.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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