Welsh referee Nigel Owens has ended his 17-year international career, admitting he would ‘not be around in 2023’.
Owens has taken the decision after officiating the 100th Test match of his career in the Autumn Nations Cup, when in charge of France versus Italy last month.
A veteran of four Rugby World Cups, Owens became the first official to reach the landmark milestone and was honoured with an MBE in 2016 for his services to sport.
“Nobody has a divine right to go on forever,” Owens, 49, said in a statement. “There comes a time where it’s time to move on so international refereeing will come to end now, that France v Italy game was my last test match.
“To go out on 100 is a good time to go. I’m not going to be around for 2023, I don’t want to be. I still hope to referee in the PRO14 and locally in Wales this season and maybe next as well.
“I haven’t refereed in order to reach milestones. But obviously when those milestones happen, like when you get your first cap, it’s something special.
“When I got my 50th cap out in Dublin it was Brian O’Driscoll’s last international game in Ireland so that it was quite a special occasion.
“Then obviously as the years go you aim to go to a Rugby World Cup, then another one.
“After the 2019 World Cup, going into the Six Nations I was probably looking then to call it a day around that time and all of a sudden you’re on 98 Test matches. Thankfully I got another two games and reached that milestone so it is something I’m proud of.
“I will certainly continue to referee in the community game because when you are very fortunate to get so much out of something, I think it’s hugely important that you give something back to it as well.
Owens was the longest serving member of World Rugby’s elite international panel, notably taking charge of the 2015 World Cup final between the victorious All Blacks and the Wallabies as well as several European Champions Cup finals.
Owens also said that he would be moving into a coaching role with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) to train aspiring referees.
He added: “We currently have five referees including myself refereeing at PRO14 level so it will be exciting to help them make further progress as well as our other upcoming male and female referees.”