Welsh rugby referee Nigel Owens praises 'consistently good' All Blacks during test week
Rugby referee Nigel Owens has praised the All Blacks during test week, talking about their incredible run of victories.
The 45-year-old Welshman will referee the All Blacks' third Bledisloe Cup test match against the Wallabies in Auckland on Saturday.
Appearing on the Paul Henry Show on Wednesday morning, Owens said the All Blacks are clearly a step ahead of the chasing pack in world rugby.
"They've been consistently good, haven't they," Owens told Henry.
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"There's been other teams, I think if you go back to South Africa, they had a long unbeaten run, I can remember back to 2009... they were hugely dominant in that period of time as well.
"But obviously, if New Zealand win on Saturday they take the record of 18 wins and that will answer the question for you really."
It is unusual for a referee to comment publicly before a test match, for fear of coming across as biased towards one team or another.
It isn't the first time, however, that Owens has appeared on New Zealand television ahead of a test in this country, including on the Paul Henry Show.
During his short interview, Owens also revealed that he had never been approached about match fixing in rugby.
"No, not at all. I've never come across it," Owens said.
"I don't think, and I hope, it will never happen in rugby because that's one of the most important fundamental values in the ethos of rugby, is respect.
"It's integrity as well, and I know that World Rugby and everybody involved with rugby do everything they can to maintain that because it's hugely important."
Despite that, Owens said rugby as a sport can always do better to combat the dark side of sport.
"Rugby can't take the moral high ground, there's a lot of things that rugby can do better and needs to do better when it comes to other sports but as far as respect and integrity goes, I would be placing rugby right up there at the top.
"Long may that continue."
Owens is the most experienced referee in test match history, having controlled more test matches than any other referee.
The highlight of his career was taking charge of the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham in 2015.