Wales rugby great Ken Owens retires after 18-year career

Wales rugby great Ken Owens announced his retirement from the sport on Wednesday, ending an 18-year professional career as a result of recurring injury struggles.

Owens, 37, played 91 times for his country, more than any other hooker in Wales' history. He featured at three Rugby World Cups and played for the British and Irish Lions on their 2017 and 2021 tours of New Zealand and South Africa, respectively.

At club level, Owens spent his entire career with Scarlets, based in Llanelli, Wales, playing more than 250 times and winning the PRO12 title in 2016-17.

"Reluctantly, I am announcing my retirement from rugby. Not playing has been challenging, but the time is right to follow medical advice and hang up my boots," Owens said in a statement on the Scarlets' website.

"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.

"Whilst part of me wishes I could have done more, I am well aware that if you had told me as a kid I would be fortunate enough to experience what I have, to have worked with and played with the people I have and taken the pleasure I have from this amazing game, I wouldn't have believed you."

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said of Owens: "Ken is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to have worn the Scarlets jersey. From when he started here as a youngster in the Academy, he has remained a one-club man throughout his career and been an outstanding ambassador for the Scarlets.

"I can't speak highly enough of him as a player and a person. He is someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, has been a warrior on the field and has always led by example."

Owens won four Six Nations titles with Wales and was a crucial member of the team who reached the Rugby World Cup semifinals in 2019 only to lose to South Africa in agonising fashion. He captained the side for the 2023 Six Nations, describing it as "a huge honour."

Discussing the pain and injuries which eventually forced him to call time on his career, Owens told The Times: "I can't drive for long periods, I can't sit for long periods, I can't pick up my one-year-old a handful of times before I start struggling.

"I'm not too bad at the moment. I'm managing but I can't live a normal life."