In his role as the world’s most experienced referee, Nigel Owens has been privileged to have the best seat in the house for some of test rugby’s most memorable matches and moments.
But there is one match above all others that he would love to do again, not because he made mistakes, but purely from an indulgent point of view because it was rugby from the gods.
When New Zealand arrived at South Africa’s Ellis Park fortress in 2013, the Rugby Championship title was on the line in what was a final-round decider.
Typically, with so much riding on the outcome, hyped-up matches as these can sometimes fall flat – but not this one.
The All Blacks hadn’t won at the historic Johannesburg venue since 1997 but in a breathtaking game of nine tries, they came out on top 38-27.
“It is dubbed by many to be the best game ever, the New Zealand and South African players tell me the same thing to this day. It really was a brilliant game,” recalled Owens.
“I had cramp five minutes before the end, it was so physically draining, so if I was reffing it again I’d make sure I didn’t get cramp!
“John Lacey was touch judge in that game and you could see him trying to pull me off the field so he could get on but there was no way I was going off.”
The day Owens gave himself the red card
Owens has chosen three other matches he’d like to do again from an enjoyment perspective, including two at Twickenham – his first Six Nations game between England and Italy and the final of Rugby World Cup 2015 – as well as another cracker featuring the All Blacks and the Springboks in 2018 in Wellington.
But there is also one match where the Welshman felt his own performance wasn’t up to scratch, and he'd love another chance to put it right.
Not many people were there to see the Welsh School Cup encounter in question but it still rankles with Owens that he fell short of his own impeccably high standards.
“I would like to referee Maes Yr Yrfa versus Ysgol Gwyr again, it was in the Welsh Schools Cup, an U18s game, I think,” he confessed.
“A few days earlier I refereed my first European knock-out match, between Wasps and Leinster. It had gone well for me but I made the cardinal sin of feeling overly pleased with myself.
“Unfortunately, I was still in that frame of mind – that I was above the match – and I sent a player off wrongly because I just wasn’t bothered in refereeing that game well.
“Afterwards, I was very disappointed in myself and I learnt that day that I should always treat each game with the same respect whether it is an international or a school game.”
Find out what Nigel has to say about all the main topics of debate from round three of the Guinness Six Nations ...