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Ken Owens

Since making his Wales debut, Ken Owens has starred for region and country as well as the British & Irish Lions

Owens calls time on playing career

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Wales’ most capped hooker, Ken Owens, has today confirmed his retirement from rugby.

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Speaking about his decision Owens, who started his rugby journey at his beloved Carmarthen Athletic, said; “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.

“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.”

A rarity in the modern game, Owens dedicated his professional career to the Scarlets making 274 appearances that spanned two decades, after plying his trade at Carmarthen Athletic and Cardiff Met (then known as UWIC).

Having joined the region’s Academy in 2004 Owens made his professional debut in 2006. He was named captain for the 2014-15 season and held the position for seven straight seasons, breaking the record held by club legend Phil Bennett.

His international debut came against Namibia at Rugby World Cup 2011, the first of three World Cup campaigns (2015 and 2019) for the Carmarthen-born hooker.

WRU CEO, Abi Tierney, said: “Ken Owens has not only been a wonderful player for the Scarlets, Wales and British & Irish 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. 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.  From a personal point of view I’d like to add just how warm and welcoming Ken has been to me since I first joined the Welsh Rugby Union and he has recently been extremely supportive and a mine of information as we work through our new strategy for the game.

“We need to make sure we do not lose an individual of his talents and leadership entirely to rugby and I know he will be a success in whatever path he chooses next.”

Commenting on his journey to the international stage, Owens added; “Across the clubs of Wales there are countless volunteers who, like my parents at the Athletic, give their time energy and commitment to this game. When you are lucky enough to play for Wales, you never lose sight of the fact that these are the people who put you in the shirt. The thousands of people who make up the community game in Wales all play their part. I hope I did them proud.”

In January 2023, after almost a year side-lined with a back injury, Owens was named Wales captain for the 2023 Six Nations Championship. He played the last of his 91 Test matches for Wales against France in March 2023.

Selected for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017, Owens captained the side against the Blues and was part of the Test match for the epic drawn series. He was also named in Warren Gatland’s Lions squad for the tour to South Africa in 2021, featuring in all three Tests against the Springboks.

Owens’ talismanic leadership has been, and will be, missed on the regional and international stage.

He attributes his success to the support he has received over the years. He went on to say; “There are countless people I would like to thank. My mother and father have supported me from the minute I first played. My sister Victoria was capped before me so even though the novelty had worn off, they still managed to encourage me on my journey.

“My club, Carmarthen Athletic, gave me so much. A brilliant introduction to rugby and friends for life. I can never thank the people there adequately.

“My only professional club, the Scarlets, believed in me and I hope my loyalty over 19 years has repaid the faith you showed.

“To have played 91 times for Wales is an honour I can never fully describe. To be a Lion… lost for words.

“My wife has been unbelievable, diolch Carys, permanently keeping my feet on the ground! To my boys, Efan and Talfan, thank you for completing my family.

“My coaches. The support staff. Diolch yn fawr iawn.”

Affectionately known as The Sheriff, Owens is extremely proud to represent his family and wider community.

“In Welsh there is a concept – y Filltir Sgwar- that means you are shaped by and represent where you are from. Where I am from means so much to me and to see that same feeling in the faces of supporters, for club and country, have been a genuine privilege. Thank you all.

“I will take some time to reflect and decide what to do next. If I can give back to my community and the game a fraction of what it has given me I will be a very proud man.”

Ken Owens has allowed exclusive access to the S4C cameras, giving the audience a unique insight into the life of the Wales rugby captain over the past 18 months.

The programme will show the highs of representing his lifelong club – the Scarlets, through the lows of fighting the career ending injury.  As well as the honour of leading Wales as Captain for the first time, to dealing with the threat of a strike by the National team.  The rollercoaster year for the hooker will show the realities of professional sport.

Ken Owens: Y Sheriff, produced by Whisper Cymru, will be shown on S4C on the 2nd of June at 21:00 and will also be available to watch on S4C Clic and BBC iPlayer.

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