Lock: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Owens said: “A man of few words, he does his talking on the field with his actions. Not only is he a brilliant player and a very good captain but I don’t think I have reffed a match where he hasn’t given absolutely everything.”
Lock: Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
Owens said: “Quite simply he was just an exceptional leader. I have been in charge of games where he pretty much carried his team, whether it was Munster or Ireland, almost on his back and onto victory.”
Blindside-flanker: Thierry Dusautoir (France)
Owens said: “My choice as the best skipper I encountered may raise a few eyebrows, but what a captain Dusautoir was. He unfailingly put his body on the line throughout his career — recall the 38 tackles he made when France knocked the All Blacks out of the 2007 World Cup — led by example and understood the game very well.
“Also, he was exemplary in the way he conducted himself.
“There were never any complaints from him over refereeing, not even when borderline decisions went against France. When his team were crushed 62-13 by New Zealand during the 2015 World Cup, he wasn’t tempted to blame anyone.
“He acted as a true leader should act.”
Openside-flanker: Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
Owens said: “Even though there’s been David Pocock and others in this position, how can I not go with Richie?
“If anybody had to pick the greatest player in history, it would surely be a difficult choice between him and Gareth Edwards.
“How McCaw managed to put his body on the line and sometimes the wrong side at rucks for so many years at flanker is incredible.”
Number 8: Sergio Parisse (Italy)
Owens said: “I’ve been fortunate to have refereed some tremendous No.8s during my career but Sergio is tops. He’s such a talented player and rarely has a bad game.
“Maybe there’s a tendency to try and do too much because he’s been in an Italy or Stade Francais team which hasn’t been at its best, but he’s been extraordinary.”