Ken Owens Wales

Ken Owens (Wales captain) reacts during the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Italy and Wales at the Olimpic Stadium (Stadio Olimpico) in Rome, Italy, on March 11, 2023. (Photo by Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Ken Owens Bows Out After 91 Caps And 20 Years Of Hooking

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By Paul Jones

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

The 37-year-old Scarlets forward – who has not played for almost a year because of a back injury – says he was advised to stop playing.

Twice a Lions tourist who played in five Tests, Owens 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.”

Owens was first choice Wales hooker across most of a period spanning four Six Nations tirtles, but has struggled with injuries over the past three years and last played un April 2023.

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.

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.

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.

“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.”

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