Nigel Owens picks two Irish players in Dream XV

The Welsh referee has refereed 70 test matches during his career

nigel owens, rugby, wales, ireland, world cup, paul o'connell, brian o'driscoll

Referee Nigel Owens and Paul O'Connell Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Colm O'Neill

Nigel Owens is to become the most experienced Test match referee in history later this year.

The Welshman, who took charge of the World Cup final last year, officiates in his 71st test match in June when Fiji play Samoa in June. The historic occasion comes 13 years after he made his international debut in a match between Portugal and Georgia.

To commemorate Owens' achievement, WalesOnline asked the 44-year-old to pick an all-star team of players he has officiated. Unsurprisingly, two Irish players make the team because of their leadership abilities.

Owens places Paul O'Connell in the second row along with Lions team mate Alun Wyn Jones. The referee was impressed with O'Connell's ability to push his teams throughout his career.

"Quite simply he was just an exceptional leader. I have been in charge of games where he pretty much carried his team, whether it was Munster or Ireland, almost on his back and onto victory. Never took a backward step, stood tall and was a man others would follow."

Referee Nigel Owens speaks with Brian O'Driscoll in 2011. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Brian O'Driscoll also makes Owens' selection and is joined in the centre by World Cup winner Ma'a Nonu. The former Ireland captain was refereed by the Welshman at both provincial and international levels.

"Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow. A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch."

Owens named former Wales winger Shane Williams as the best player he ever refereed during a match, "for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age."

Nigel Owens' Dream XV

(15-9): Israel Folau, Stuart Hogg, Brian O'Driscoll, Ma'a Nonu, Shane Williams, Dan Carter, Agustin Pichot

(1-8): Gethin Jenkins, John Smit, Phil Vickery, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Thierry Dusautoir, Richie McCaw, Sergio Parisse.