Nigel Owens has refereed his last game in Rugby’s Greatest Championship as the rugby icon has brought an end to his illustrious, record-breaking international career.
The Welshman took charge of his 100th international last month when France took on Italy in the Autumn Nations Cup – and he has announced that game will be his last on the world stage.
He has established himself as an icon of the sport since making his Championship debut in 2007, with the 49-year-old overseeing countless memorable moments in the Guinness Six Nations.
Nigel Owens’ most iconic Championship moments
Owens is the record-holder for the most Six Nations matches as referee (21), with his last appearance coming in France’s victory over England in Round One of this year’s Championship.
But having become the world’s most-capped referee and reached 100 international matches, the 49-year-old has decided to bow out 17 years after making his international debut.
“Nobody has a divine right to go on forever,” said Owens, who has refereed at four Rugby World Cups and oversaw the 2015 final between New Zealand and Australia.
“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. 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 PRO14 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 PRO14 level so it will be exciting to help them make further progress as well as our other upcoming male and female referees.”
His deep passion for the sport, remarkable character and unwavering dedication to performance and fitness standards have seen him command the respect of the globe’s most elite players.
Owens has become a household name thanks to his rapport with players on the field, which has seen him regularly take charge of the game’s most prestigious fixtures.
He added: “Reaching 100 caps was obviously a bit of a milestone in the end. I haven’t refereed in order to reach milestones but obviously when those milestones happen like when you get your first cap, it’s something special.
“When I got my 50th cap out in Dublin it was Brian O’Driscoll’s last international game in Ireland so that it was quite a special occasion and then obviously as the years go you aim to go to a Rugby World Cup, then another one.
“After the 2019 World Cup, going into the Six Nations, I probably was looking then to call it a day around that time and all of a sudden you’re on 98 Test matches.
“Thankfully I got another two games and reached that milestone so it is something I’m proud of but more importantly I made my family and community proud which I think is more important.”