Rugby referees rarely get a great rap.

If they stuff up, the world dumps on them as English whistler Wayne Barnes discovered after the All Black defeat in the 2007 RWC quarterfinal.

World Rugby has puffed out its chest to tell us Welsh referee Nigel Owens will break Jonathan Kaplan's world record when he controls his 71st test in Suva.

Let's applaud any move to raise rugby's profile in the islands and connect it with the rest of the world.


The All Blacks historic visit to Samoa last year was a social and public relations success although Super rugby continues to snub Pacific Island involvement while attracting their talent.

Now WR will dispatch the 44-year-old Owens to the National Stadium for the first time in his career when Fiji host Tonga on June 11.

On the same day at Eden Park, Barnes will control the first of three All Black tests against Wales. Most of the nation has mended their distaste for the English referee who was vilified for his work after the All Blacks lost their World Cup quarterfinal to France in 2007.

South African referee Jaco Peyper will run the second test in Wellington and Jerome Garces gets the third international on June 25 in Dunedin.

Owens was in charge of the All Blacks triumph against the Wallabies in last year's World Cup and is into his 13th season of international duty.

"I don't think anyone goes into refereeing in order to break records like this," Owens said.

"But I suppose what it says is that I've managed to stay at the top level of the game for a while now."

WR chairman of match officials John Jeffrey said Owens had been a great referee and servant of the game.

"His longevity at the top level of rugby is a testament to his ability, dedication, hard work and perseverance, and I wish him all the best for this record-breaking match."

Owens will then be involved in England's series against Australia when he referees the third Test in Sydney on June 25, with the other tests in Brisbane and Melbourne on June 11 and 18 awarded to Frenchman Romain Poite and South African Craig Joubert.