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Back injury forces Wales hooker into retirement

NEWS: Wales hooker Ken Owens announced his retirement on Wednesday after failing to recover from a persistent back injury.

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Owens, capped 91 times by Wales, has not played since appearing for the Llanelli-based Scarlets in last season’s Challenge Cup semifinal against Glasgow Warriors.

The 37-year-old had surgery last July on a bulging disc pressing upon a nerve in his back and withdrew from Wales’ squad for the 2023 World Cup in France.

There had been hopes Owens, a former Wales captain, would return to action.

But he was unable to recover and Owens, Wales’ most-capped hooker, has now decided to call time on a career that yielded 274 appearances for the Scarlets, the only club he represented in the professional game.

“Reluctantly, I am announcing my retirement from rugby,” Owens said in a club statement.

“Not playing has been challenging, but the time is right to follow medical advice and hang up my boots.

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“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,” explained Owens, who also represented the British and Irish Lions in five Tests across tours of New Zealand (2017) and South Africa (2021).

‘Consummate role model’

Owens made his Scarlets debut as a teenager and went on lead them to a Pro12 title in the 2016/17 season

He also won two Grand Slams and two further Six Nations titles with Wales and helped them reach two World Cup semi-finals.

Owens was also Wales’ captain in last season’s Six Nations, when he made his final Test appearance.

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That tournament also saw Owens, as Wales skipper, representing the views of his teammates to the Welsh Rugby Union after they threatened to strike over contractual disputes ahead of the game against England.

“Ken has had an incredible rugby career and been a brilliant ambassador for the game in Wales,” said Wales coach Warren Gatland.

“Ken is an incredibly passionate Welshman. I know it meant a lot to him to play for Wales and you could see that every single time he wore the red jersey.

“He has been a dedicated professional and a great leader, always helping drive standards but also popular with his teammates. It was an easy decision to name him as captain.”

Meanwhile, WRU Chief Executive Abi Tierney hailed Owens as a “wonderful player” and “a consummate role model for youngsters up and down the country developing their love for the game”.

Owens is the latest senior Wales player to retire from Test rugby during the past 12 months, following Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and George North.

This season, a new-look Wales suffered the embarrassment of finishing bottom of the Six Nations for the first time since 2003 after losing all five of their matches.

 

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