My Life in Rugby: Michael Owen – former Wales captain & Saracens No.8

Michael OwenYou start every Six Nations thinking you’re in with a chance.We were no different in 2005 but it’s still remarkable we won the Grand Slam within two years of being branded the worst Welsh side in history.
We lost ten games in a row before the 2003 World Cup, it was hard work to turn it round but we did and that Championship was the culmination of all the hard work beforehand.
If you can start well you have a chance and we got off to a great start against England, winning 11-9. The overriding memory from the entire tournament, though, was the French game, a brilliant contest which ended 24-18.
I remember walking round the Stade de France beforehand and soaking up the atmosphere and just being inspired by the whole occasion.
By the time the Ireland game came around I felt really confident. We were on a roll and no one was going to stop us.
We got the coach into Cardiff and it was a beautiful day. There were thousands of people but I didn’t feel any pressure. Looking back it was probably the biggest game of my career but at the time it didn’t feel like it.
It’s only recently I’ve started to take stock of what I’ve achieved. Two years ago I was watching ESPN Classics and that Ireland game came on. I got goosebumps just watching it and it’s great to reflect on those times.
Captaining the side was an easy job at that stage. Gareth Thomas came off injured at half-time in the French game and I didn’t really take into account the enormity of the responsibility. I just got on with it.
It’s strange because when you’re not directly involved in the game you feel more detached, and that’s the way I felt against Fiji in the 2007 World Cup.
I had no idea that Fiji game would be my last in a Welsh shirt. I shouldn’t really say it but when you come on for the final 15 minutes of a game it’s hard to get up for it the way I did in the 2005 Six Nations.
We were better than Fiji and we were all gutted to go out in the group stages.
I was particularly frustrated, I was playing some of the best rugby of my career at that time but I didn’t get the rewards.
I felt I had so much more to give but others perhaps didn’t feel the same way. It would’ve been nice to have had more good memories, but I can’t complain I had an amazing few years.
I then had a big decision to make at the end of my contract with Newport in 2008. I talked with my wife, Lucy, and we decided to take the chance and move to Saracens – and I loved every minute of it.
I always wanted to explore new horizons so when Eddie Jones, the Saracens coach at the time, talked to me about his plans and how big a role I’d play in it, it was something I really wanted to do. Things started off so well, then the first game of 2009 against Gloucester I did my knee and never really recovered.
I had two reconstructions but it never felt the same, it’s just one of those things. I’ve moved on, that was a couple of years ago and I’m still young at 31.
I completed a business and sport degree at the University of Hertfordshire and I’ll be taking up a coaching role there and also setting up a rugby camp in Spain this summer. I can’t live without rugby.

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