Nigel Owens and Gareth Thomas Targeted with Homophobic Abuse in Letter Sent to Rugby Referee - Ruck

Nigel Owens and Gareth Thomas Targeted with Homophobic Abuse in Letter Sent to Rugby Referee

Former rugby referee Nigel Owens has spoken of his distress after receiving an anonymous homophobic letter in the post in 2022.

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The esteemed Welsh official, who publicly came out as gay in 2007 and has previously spoken about his struggles with mental health, shared the offensive letter on social media. The handwritten note, signed by a ‘Steel Worker PT’, also referenced rugby icon Gareth Thomas.

Owens deliberated on whether to publicise the letter but ultimately decided to do so, stating: “Unless we start calling out these kinds of people, nothing will change. It hurts, and there is no need for all this hate.”

The letter included a string of homophobic remarks, citing religious texts and making derogatory comments about Owens and Thomas. It read: “The Bible says ‘man shall not lie with man nor woman with woman, it’s an abomination. Nor should men dress in women’s clothing, nor women in men’s’.

“What do you think AIDS is? It is God’s punishment to the Sodomites. Forget that people pretend to accept you because they don’t.

“The same goes for Gareth Thomas. His teammates think he is disgusting. He too is being punished by God. Only a Queer would buy a Korean car. You should be ashamed.”

Gareth Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009 and announced in 2019 that he is HIV positive, responded to Owens’ post. Thomas revealed he had also been targeted by the same individual, commenting: “He’s a serial writer, butt. He writes those kinds of letters to everyone. Good on you for calling him out.”


Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

“It’s a toss of a coin for me… and it’s come down in Folau’s favour.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

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Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: “He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”