"It's such a big taboo to be gay in my line of work, I had to think very hard about it because I didn't want to jeopardise my career. Coming out was very difficult and I tried to live with who I really was for years. I knew I was 'different' from my late teens, but I was just living a lie."Shortly after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Owens was named 'Gay Sports Personality of the Year' by gay rights group Stonewall's gay awards ceremony in London.
He was a patron of the LGBT Centre of Excellence Wales, until it's disbandment in late 2012, but he is still that of the Wooden Spoon Society rugby charity.
Owens was born and raised in a small village called Mynyddcerrig in the Gwendraeth Valley in South Wales and he is a fluent Welsh language speaker. He was a school technician at Ysgol Gyfun Maes Yr Yrfa Cefneithin and youth worker with Menter Cwm Gwendraeth.
Owens was appointed as an international referee in 2005, and that year officiated his first international between Ireland and Japan in Osaka. Along with Wayne Barnes of England and Marius Jonker of South Africa, Owens made his World Cup debut in Lyon, France on 11 September 2007 for the Argentina vs. Georgia match. He is only one of two referees ever to be appointed to referee two consecutive Heineken Cup finals: Munster v Toulouse at the Millennium Stadium in 2008 and Leicester Tigers v Leinster at Murrayfield in 2009.
He is also known as one of the presenters on Jonathan, a rugby-themed Welsh language chat show hosted by former Welsh international Jonathan Davies, broadcast on S4C on the eve of big international matches. He also co-presents the sports-themed Welsh language chat show Bwrw'r Bar.
In November 2008 he released his autobiography in Welsh called "Hanner Amser" which means Half Time. The English language version was launched at the end of October 2009. In 2011 he was made a member of the Gorsedd of Bards.
In January 2012 Owens made the headlines by addressing Treviso scrum-half Tobias Botes for continually yelling in protest by ending with the words "This is not soccer!", which then instantly became extremely popular among rugby fans, to the point that T-shirts with this phrase inprinted were commercialized.
Half Time: The Autobiography by Nigel Owens and Lynn Davies
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Y Lolfa; First Edition edition (December 31, 2009)
Amazon: Half Time: The Autobiography
Amazon Kindle: Half Time: The Autobiography
Nigel Owens is one of the best referees in world rugby. But before reaching the highest echelons of the game, he went through a personal crisis and came out as gay - the first to do so in the macho world of professional rugby. His bravery earned him great respect from players, officials and supporters alike. In this warm, funny and painfully honest autobiography, he speaks frankly about his struggle to accept himself for who he was, leading to attempted suicide, bulimia and steroid addiction. Owens also recounts many amusing incidents from rugby matches, foreign trips and his off-field career as an entertainer.
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