Nigel Owens has opened up on the homophobic abuse he suffered at Twickenham when referring a Test between England and New Zealand in 2014.
The Welsh official revealed he had comments of a homophobic nature shouted at him from the stands during the autumn international and the impact of the abuse made him consider an early retirement from the sport.
Speaking ahead of Pride Cymru’s Big Weekend, Owens said: “It was New Zealand versus England in Twickenham, I’d had a couple of phone calls asking me what I’d thought about the comments that had been shouted at me.
“What we really don’t know is were they true rugby people or were they people that just came along to that game?
“What was difficult, people talking about it and then everyone in the world knows you’re gay. So there was a sense of disappointment, of ‘here we go again’. Even now after all I’ve been through there are times where it gets you down and gets you scared.”
Owens came out in 2007 and has gone on to forge a career that has taken him to European Cup finals and British & Irish Lions tours. Pondering whether to retire, Owens added that it was a handwritten letter by RFU chairman Bill Beaumont which persuaded him to carry on in the job.
“It was really touching, I read the letter with a little tear in my eye really. Reading that letter that gave me the impression that it really does mean something to him, he really does care.”
12 months after the incident, Owens returned to Twickenham to referee the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia.
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