Referee Nigel Owens retires after 100 Tests - but he’ll keep doing Pro14

Referee Nigel Owens has announced his retirement from international rugby after taking charge of 100 Test matches.

Referee Nigel Owens signals turnover ball for Scotland during the 2018 Six Nations match between Scotland and England at Murrayfield. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Referee Nigel Owens signals turnover ball for Scotland during the 2018 Six Nations match between Scotland and England at Murrayfield. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Welshman Owens, 49, became the first rugby union referee to reach that figure when he took charge of the Autumn Nations Cup game between France and Italy in Paris last month.

And he has now decided to bring down the curtain with immediate effect on a Test career that began 17 years ago and was highlighted by him taking charge of the 2015 World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Nobody has a divine right to go on forever,” Owens said, in a statement released by the Welsh Rugby Union.

“There comes a time where it is time to move on, so international refereeing will come to an end now. That France versus Italy game was my last Test match. To go out on 100 is a good time to go.

“I am not going to be around for 2023 (World Cup). I don’t want to be. I still hope to referee in the Pro14 and locally in Wales this season, and maybe next season as well.

“I will certainly continue to referee in the community game, because when you are very fortunate to get so much out of something I think it’s hugely important that you give something back to it as well.

“I will also be going into a coaching role with the WRU, helping some of our talented, young referees we have here in Wales, so that is something I am quite excited about.”

Owens will always be remembered fondly by Scotland fans for disallowing an England try in the 2018 Calcutta Cup match. Owen Farrell thought his score was good but Owens chalked it off because Courtney Lawes knocked the ball on in a tackle and Scotland went on to win 25-13.

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont paid tribute to Owens.

“Nigel has been a fantastic ambassador for rugby, both on and off the pitch, becoming one of the most recognisable and revered and celebrated individuals in the game over the past two decades,” he said.

“What makes Nigel so special is not only his exemplary international refereeing career, but also his contribution to the game and society as a role model of rugby’s unique values of integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.

“On behalf of World Rugby, I would like to thank Nigel for his incredible dedication, commitment, passion and love for the game.”

Owens came out as gay in 2007, and speaking on inclusion in rugby, he said: “It is important that we are all treated the same and that we are judged on our character and nothing else. Not on the colour of your skin, your sexuality, religious beliefs or wherever you come from.

“Those issues did hinder my life growing up and put me in a very dark place for quite a long period in my teens and early 20s, but I got a second chance, was allowed to be who I am and I think it’s hugely important everyone gets that opportunity.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.