Nigel Owens has hinted that his 100th Test appointment this weekend could be his last as he prepares to retire from international rugby at the end of the year.
Owens will take charge of Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup Test between France and Italy in Paris, which will also serve as his landmark 100th Test appointment.
However, he has yet to receive any indication as to whether he will be involved in the 2021 Six Nations, amid efforts from World Rugby to bring through a new crop of referees in time for the 2023 World Cup.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, Owens confirmed that he could be set to retire from international refereeing after 35 years.
‘I will be very proud to achieve that milestone this weekend,’ Owens said. ‘I never thought I would keep going to get 100 Tests. From what I am told, I am still refereeing at the top of my game. It is not a case of hanging around for an extra game and overstaying your welcome. I am still enjoying it and still performing, so there is a sense of that as well.
‘There is also a sense that things are coming to an end. This season will be my last at Test level, and probably professionally as well. It will be. I can understand that if I am not going to be around for the World Cup in three years’ time, they are not going to pick me now.
‘I will savour the moment. You have to enjoy every day as if it is the last because one day you will be right. I am going to enjoy this game because one day it is going to be my last, and this could be it. I would be disappointed if it was.’
The current world-record holder for most Test matches refereed, Owens made his Test debut in 2003, with his first international appointment a second-tier match between Portugal and Georgia.
Owens has refereed at four different World Cups in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019, taking charge of the 2015 World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia, becoming just the second Welsh referee to do so, after Derek Bevan in 1991.
The 49-year-old came out as gay in 2007 and credits the positive reaction he received from rugby as saving his life as he struggled with his sexuality.
‘Rugby and the people within rugby saved my life. That is why I will always owe more to rugby and the people within rugby will ever owe to me,’ Owens explained. ‘I got through those difficult times because of rugby. Being accepted by some of the greatest players in the world who said, “Well done, we are proud of you because of who you are, it doesn’t matter to us.” That helped me in coming out and it saved my life, there is no doubt about it.’
Photo: Getty Images