WORLD CUP GIG HIGHLIGHT OF INSPIRING JOURNEY


When referee Nigel Owens blows the whistle to get the Rugby World Cup final under way it will be the highlight of what is an inspiring personal journey.

While the Wallabies and the All Blacks will rightly be the star attraction, Owens, 44, would prefer to remain oblivious as millions of fans around the world analyse every decision he makes.

As his tiny hometown village of Mynyddcerrig in rural Wales celebrated his appointment to control the biggest game of them all, Owens aptly tweeted: “Never ever forget where u (sic) have come from.”

Owens has certainly come a long way from the 24-year-old who left a suicide note for his parents before leaving his house with a loaded shotgun, as well as whisky and paracetamol.

He overdosed on the latter combination, falling into a deep coma and was only saved when a police helicopter located him in the nick of time.

He was hooked to steroids, becoming short-tempered, and also suffered from depression.

I wasn’t dealing well with accepting who I was,” he says in the documentary Nigel Owens, True to Myself, which aired on BBC Wales.

One of the first openly gay figures in rugby, Owens publicly came out on prime time television in Wales eight years ago. He has gone on to become one of the most respected referees in the game with his strict, but empathetic style of officiating.

Owens is well known for his witty one-liners, one of the more memorable coming when was trying to get players to form a decent line-out: “C’mon lads, I’m straighter than that one.”

Owens tries his hardest to take all media coverage and criticism in a light-hearted fashion, and agreed to meet a Welsh rugby fan who sent a homophobic tweet in his direction in March.

When visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, his humour was again to the fore when he tweeted: “Well I have met a few Queens in my time some of you even say I am one. But on the way to Buckingham Palace now to meet the real one.#excited”

Naturally, his sexuality does not matter when it comes to the game, but kick-off will mark a huge moment for Owens himself, for the game of rugby and indeed for sport in general.