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Injury forces Wales and Lions star Ken Owens to retire from rugby

Owens won 91 caps for Wales, winning the Six Nations on four occasions including two grand slams

Duncan Bech
Wednesday 17 April 2024 13:19 BST
Ken Owens is hanging up his rugby boots
Ken Owens is hanging up his rugby boots (PA Archive)

Former Wales rugby captain Ken Owens has announced his retirement from the game after failing to recover from a back problem.

The 37-year-old hooker, who played five Tests for the British and Irish Lions, has been sidelined for almost a year because of the injury, last playing for the Scarlets in April 2023.

Owens won two grand slams and two further Six Nations titles during his 91 caps for Wales, whom he led during last year’s Six Nations.

“Reluctantly, I am announcing my retirement from rugby. Not playing has been challenging, but the time is right to follow medical advice and hang up my boots,” he said.

“Had I written the script there would have been one more game for Wales, for the Scarlets and ultimately Carmarthen Athletic. A chance to sign off and thank everyone involved.

“It was not to be. It might not be the dream ending, but my career has been more than I could have dreamt of.

“Whilst part of me wishes I could have done more, I am well aware that if you had told me as a kid I would be fortunate enough to experience what I have, to have worked with and played with the people I have and taken the pleasure I have from this amazing game, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Owens made his debut for the Scarlets in 2006 and went on to amass 274 appearances for the region, his only professional team.

He competed in three World Cups after winning his first cap in 2011 but was denied involvement in a fourth global showpiece at France 2023 because of his back injury.

Overcoming back and neck issues to take part in last year’s Six Nations, he was part of the contract negotiations with the Welsh Rugby Union that averted strike action.

His last match was the Scarlets’ Challenge Cup defeat by Glasgow in April 2023.

“Ken Owens has not only been a wonderful player for the Scarlets, Wales and Lions over the course of a stellar career but he has also been a consummate role model for youngsters up and down the country developing their love for the game,” WRU chief executive Abi Tierney said.

“The fact that he has captained all of those senior sides in succession shows just what a talismanic leader he is. We will all miss his presence on the pitch and the changing rooms, team rooms and press conferences also won’t be the same without him.”

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