Nigel Owens making plans to adopt a child with his long-term partner - Ruck

Nigel Owens making plans to adopt a child with his long-term partner

Nigel Owens, the esteemed Welsh referee considered one of the greatest in world rugby, has declined a coaching position with the Springboks due to his plans to start a family.

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The 51-year-old, who officiated 100 test matches before retiring in 2020, said the offer from Rassie Erasmus to join South Africa’s coaching team ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup was enticing, but the timing was not right.

“The main reason why I had to turn down the job is because myself and my partner Barrie have some exciting news to share – we are currently in the final stages of the adoption process and will hopefully be starting our family in the coming months,’’ Owens wrote.

“There’s not too much I can say at the moment about the process itself, but we are both incredibly excited. It’s something that we’ve spoken about for a few years now and it’s taken a while to get here, but now that it’s happening we can’t wait, although I must admit it’s also a little nerve-wracking.

“As any parent will tell you, there’s no bigger commitment than raising a child, so that was obviously the main reason why I decided against the South Africa job in the end. I couldn’t, nor would I want to, go away for the next six months with this happening.”

His partner Barrie works off-farm as a primary school teacher.

In May 2007, Nigel Owens publicly came out as gay in an interview with Wales on Sunday, receiving mostly supportive reactions. Following the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Owens was honoured as ‘Gay Sports Personality of the Year’ at Stonewall’s awards ceremony in London. He served as a patron of the LGBT Centre of Excellence Wales until its closure in 2012 and remains a patron of the Wooden Spoon Society rugby charity. In 2013, Owens also became a patron of the Bullies Out charity in Wales.

During a match between England and New Zealand in November 2014, Owens was subjected to racist and anti-gay abuse, leading to a two-year ban for the offending spectators from Twickenham. In 2015, he was named ‘Gay Sports Personality of the Decade’ at the Stonewall awards. Owens was listed among the leading Welsh LGBT figures on the 2017 Pinc List. In a 2019 interview with Wales Online, he shared an anecdote about asking a date to hide in a Pizza Hut bathroom when Wales international Dwayne Peel and his girlfriend entered.

Owens was inducted into the Gorsedd of Bards in 2011. In the 2016 Birthday Honours, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to sport and received an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University the same year. Additionally, Owens has held roles as secretary, chairman, and president of the Wales Federation of Young Farmers Clubs and is a supporter of Wrexham Football Club.


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.”

Fixtures for the Six Nations - Round 1

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.”