Welsh Rugby
Priestland supports underfire Owens
ESPNscrum Staff
December 23, 2011
Welsh referee Nigel Owens offers some instruction, Munster v Leinster, Heineken Cup semi-final, Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland, May 2, 2009
Nigel Owens has come in for criticism from Scott Johnson © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Scott Johnson | Nigel Owens
Teams: Ospreys | Scarlets | Wales

Wales and Scarlets fly-half Rhys Priestland has backed Nigel Owens over his use of Twitter.

Owens was criticised by Ospreys director of coaching Scott Johnson for the way in which he interacted with players on the social networking site ahead of the Ospreys clash with the Scarlets on Boxing Day, which the Welshman will referee.

"I think people make too much fuss over it," Priestland told the BBC. "Personally I don't think there's too much wrong with what he's done."

Johnson had previously said: "He [Owens] is on social networks talking to opposition players. He posted the last time we played them apologising to the Scarlets supporters for forward passes. When you start that, you open up a can of worms.

"That can have unfair accusations labelled against people. The sport can do without it."

Owens, who was the subject of a famous Twitter tirade from Samoa centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu during the World Cup, has not responded to Johnson's criticisms. But Priestland feels the referee's impartiality is should not be questioned.

"Everyone gets on well with him," the 24-year-old said. "When he's on the field it doesn't matter if he gets on well with that player on or off the field, that doesn't let him cloud his judgment. He's been in a bit of controversy out in New Zealand and to be honest I don't think that really affected him and I don't think this will affect him.

"He hasn't got to where he is now in the world as probably one of the best referees by letting little things like this bother him. He's spoken to a few of our players and spoken to players from every other region.

"It's such a small close knit thing rugby in Wales [that] it's going to be pretty hard for him not to speak to everyone.

"It's good for the game in Wales that the players are on there [on Twitter]. It gives the public the chance to interact with players.

"If you want to follow the players you can speak to them and have a bit of banter on there."

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