London, Dec 11 (AFP/APP): Nigel Owens, world rugby’s most capped referee, has brought his 17-year international career to an end.
The 49-year-old Welshman took charge of his 100th and final Test match in last month’s clash between France and Italy in the Autumn Nations Cup, having made his international debut officiating Portugal v Georgia in February 2003.
“Nobody has a divine right to go on forever. There comes a time where it’s time to move on so international refereeing will come to end now, that France v Italy game was my last Test match,” Owens said in a statement to the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU). “I still hope to referee in the Pro 14 and locally in Wales this season and maybe next 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.”
Owens refereed at four World Cups and took charge of the 2015 final between New Zealand and Australia. He has also become a leading voice for the LGBT community in sport after coming out as being gay in 2007.
“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,” he added in his statement. “We can’t take the moral high ground as there are a lot of things that rugby can improve on, but one thing is certain, it does lead on inclusiveness, diversity, fair play and equality for all and that is something I’m very proud to be part of.”
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