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Owens To Referee Croker Semi-Final

Owens To Referee Croker Semi-Final

Leading Welsh referee Nigel Owens will take charge of the all-Ireland Heineken Cup semi-final showdown between Munster and Leinster at Croke Park on Saturday, May 2. Meanwhile, top Irish official Alain Rolland has been appointed to the other semi-final between Cardiff Blues and Leicester Tigers.

Tournament organisers ERC have confirmed the match officials for the 2008/09 Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup semi-finals.

The schedule will see Nigel Owens referee the first ever Heineken Cup match to be played at the 82,500-capacity Croke Park.

This will actually be Owens’ second time to take charge of a game at the Jones’s Road venue as he whistled Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations opener against France in February.

Speaking about that experience, he said recently: “I don’t normally take much notice of the atmosphere in a stadium because I’m focused on the game itself and the job that I have to do.

“But in Croke Park, I couldn’t help but notice what was going on. The stadium is amazing. It’s massive, with a capacity of around 80,000 – it was mind-blowing.”

Owens is no stranger to both the Munster and Leinster teams, regularly refereeing them in the Magners League.

The 37-year-old has whistled 39 Heineken Cup matches to date, including Munster’s quarter-final, semi-final and final wins in last season’s tournament and Leinster’s pool win over Wasps in October and their quarter-final victory over Harlequins last weekend.

Dubliner Alain Rolland will referee the Cardiff Blues v Leicester Tigers encounter at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday, May 3.

It will be the fourth time the former Leinster and Ireland scrum half has taken charge of a Heineken Cup semi-final, equalling the record of ex-Scottish referee and current ERC Board member Jim Fleming.

Meanwhile, French referee Romain Poite will get the big European weekend underway when he referees the European Challenge Cup semi-final between Northampton Saints and Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday, May 1.

And in a further fillip for Irish referees, Peter Fitzgibbon will be in charge of the other Challenge Cup semi-final between Bourgoin and Worcester Warriors at Stade Pierre Rajon..

It will be Fitzgibbon’s first European semi-final and continues his development as a top level referee. The Limerick man, a regular on the Magners League and European circuits, refereed the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship final last summer.

For the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup knock-out games, should the match referee withdraw during the game due to injury he will be replaced by the fourth official. 

(Kick-offs local times)

5.30pm – MUNSTER v LEINSTER – Croke Park – Nigel Owens (Wales) 
Fourth Official – Wayne Barnes (England)

3pm – Cardiff Blues v Leicester Tigers – Millennium Stadium – Alain Rolland (Ireland) 
Fourth Official – Alan Lewis (Ireland)

(Kick-offs local times)

7.45pm – Northampton Saints v Saracens – Franklin’s Gardens – Romain Poite (France)
Fourth Official – Christophe Berdos (France)

1.30pm – Bourgoin v Worcester Warriors – Stade Pierre Rajon – Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Fourth Official – Carlo Damasco (Italy)

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