World rugby's greatest referee Nigel Owens believes people are getting into refereeing for all the wrong reasons and think referee's have to have a second skin in order to deal with all of the abuse that comes with the job.

Speaking to NZME's Tony Veitch, Owens recalled why he first got into refereeing over 20 years ago and how motives for new referees may not be the right ones.

"When I started, as I think everybody should, it's because it's your hobby or maybe you've finished playing," Owens said.

"I think now, a lot of people go into refereeing for the wrong reasons."


Owens then addressed the recent story around fellow referee Wayne Barnes, who spoke for the first time to fabled UK rugby writer Stephen Jones about the controversy surrounding the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal between the All Blacks and France.

He backed up Barnes and believes it's all just part and parcel of being a referee.

"You couldn't be doing this if you weren't able to cope with that," Owens said.

"When it becomes personal, and when there's a tint of nastiness to it, then it's not very nice for anyone involved and there's no place for that in any sport."

With the advent of social media, referee abuse has hit a whole new chapter.

However, Owens has a very simple way for dealing with the online trolls.

"I send a message back first, then block them. So I get the last laugh," he said.

"I remember someone having a dig at my sexuality after one game.

"What I did, I sent a message back and said, 'Well there's no need for you to worry about being gay because the way you look, you'll never cope being turned down by men and women,' and then I just blocked him."

Owens is in the country ahead of this weekend's Bledisloe test and will also feature at the Auckland Writers Festival public event at Auckland Grammar school tomorrow night.

The event is expected to attract 1000 people with 100 tickets still left to sell. Tickets are just $20 and can be found on