It is 503 miles from Mynyddcerrig to Paris, but in many ways, in fact in most ways, the two places are not just worlds apart, they are more like galaxies apart.
One man who has spent a large part of the last ten years making that inter galactic journey is top referee Nigel Owens.
He is a familiar figure in the city of lights, indeed the song “I love Paris in the springtime, I love Paris in the fall” could have been written for him, as refereering appointments to six nations matches, autumn internationals and European cup games in France’ capital city have been plentiful.
Last Saturday at the Stade de France he became the most capped referee in 6 Nations history , when he refereed his 18th tournament match.
After a final blast of “Mor fawr wyt ti” in the solitary final minutes in the changing room, Nigel ran out in the Parisian drizzle to referee a pulsating and brutal match.
For those of you who don’t speak the language of heaven those Welsh words translate to how great thou art, a hymn that has been a huge comfort to many welsh families in tough times.
This week my father passed away and one of the great comforts I received were messages of condolence from Nigel, which speaks volumes for the man.
When you add his 21 matches as an assistant referee, and his three as TMO, it makes the achievement even more impressive.
In that time he has issued 7 yellow red cards and awarded 3 pen tries, well after all and as they say in these parts
“Ce n’est pas le soccer”
In a murky floodlit corner of Saint-Denis with 82.38 on the clock and France within touching distance of a shock win over Ireland, Johnny Sexton, after 41 phases of play, swung his right foot into as sweetly struck a dropped goal as you could wish for to win the match for the men in green.
Two blasts on the whistle followed almost simultaneously one to award the score the other to signal the end of the game.
503 miles away, the locals reached for the remote, or headed to the bar for another pint, safe in the knowledge that “their boy” had done his work without fear or favour as always.
The 2018 Six Nations has started and tomorrow it will be time for another inter galactic journey north westwards.
Nigel Owens 6 Nations Record