Referee Nigel Owens has announced his retirement from international rugby with immediate effect, bringing a 17-year-long career at the top level to an end.
Owens is the most capped referee in World Rugby, having officiated his 100th international test match last month in the Autumn Nations Cup encounter between France and Italy.
With a heavy heart, the time has come to hang up the whistle and boots at international level. I owe more to rugby than rugby will ever owe to me. Thank you for all the support over the many years. 🏉🏴☺️Diolch o galon a hwyl fawr. https://t.co/230HqhLswL
— Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens) December 11, 2020
The Welsh referee announced his retirement through the Welsh Rugby Union and issued a heartfelt message to members of the rugby community.
“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 vs Italy game was my last Test match. To go out on 100 is a good time to go.
“I’m not going to be around for 2023, I don’t want to be. 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, I think it’s hugely important that you give something back to it as well.
“I’ll 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’m quite excited about.
“We currently have five referees including myself refereeing at Pro 14 level so it will be exciting to help them make further progress as well as our other upcoming male and female referees,” Owens said.
While his wit and charm will no longer be seen on the international arena, fans of the Pro14 may still get to appreciate Owens for a little while longer.