Owens retires from Test officiating

Revered referee Nigel Owens has officially confirmed that he will be retiring from officiating at the top level after a record-breaking 100-Test career.

Following a stellar career, spanning 17 years and 210 matches in total, including exactly 100 as referee, one of the most decorated personalities in the game has called time on officiating Test rugby.

Owens reached the very pinnacle of the game when taking charge of the Rugby World Cup 2015 final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham and received the World Rugby Referee Award a day later.

Undoubtedly one of the game’s most enthusiastic and well-renowned ambassadors, he became the first referee to take charge of 100 Tests when he held the whistle for France vs Italy in the Autumn Nations Cup in Paris on 28 November 2020 – 17 years after his Test debut in February 2003 when he was in the middle for Portugal vs Georgia in Lisbon.

Owens refereed his 50th Test on 24 November 2012 when he took charge of Ireland vs New Zealand in Dublin, and he surpassed South Africa’s Jonathan Kaplan as the most-capped referee with his 71st Test on 11 June 2016 when Fiji hosted Tonga in Suva.

Speaking in a Wales Rugby Union video, the Welsh referee expressed his happiness to have gone out at 100 caps.

‘Nobody has a divine right to go on forever,’ Owens said. ‘There comes a time where it’s time to move on, so the refereeing at a Test-match level will come to an end now. To go out on a hundred is a good time to go. Reaching a hundred caps is a milestone and something I’m proud of but, more importantly, I’ve made my family and community proud as well. I wouldn’t change one thing, from travelling all over the world for the best part of the last 20 years to being involved in some of rugby’s greatest occasions.

‘One of the most important values and ethos of rugby union is the value of respect. Rugby I believe upholds a tradition and value of respect better than any other sport in the world. There’s a lot of things that rugby needs to improve and do better, but one thing it certainly does lead on is inclusiveness, diversity, fair play and equality for all and that is something that I’m very proud to be part of in rugby.

‘I certainly will be refereeing the community game, some junior clubs on a Sunday morning or school games or even club games to put something back, because I think it’s hugely important when you are very fortunate to get so much out of something that you give something back into it as well.’


Photo: Getty Images