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The 'outstanding' Warren Gatland tribute to the retiring Ken Owens

By Liam Heagney
Warren Gatland and Ken Owens shake hands during the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour (Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Wales boss Warren Gatland has given his reaction to Wednesday’s unfortunate confirmation that Ken Owens has retired from playing with immediate effect.

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The 37-year-old, who was his country’s most capped hooker, also worked with Gatland on two British and Irish Lions tours but he has now had to call it quits due to medical advice following 274 one-club-man appearances for the Scarlets.

Owens announced on his club’s website: “Reluctantly, I’m announcing my retirement from rugby. 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.”

Gatland paid tribute later on Wednesday to the 91-cap international who also played in five B&I Lions Test games. “Ken has had an incredible rugby career and has been a brilliant ambassador for the game in Wales,” said the coach on the Welsh Rugby Union website.

“I have enjoyed being able to coach him with Wales and the Lions. 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 was also very proud to represent Carmarthen Athletic and the Scarlets. Throughout his career Ken has been a dedicated professional and a great leader, always helping drive standards but also very popular with his teammates.

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“He has been absolutely outstanding for Wales over the years and it was a very easy decision to name him as captain for the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, which turned out to be his final international campaign.

“Ken, his wife Carys, his family and friends can be immensely proud of all he has achieved. Diolch yn fawr iawn am bopeth Ken. All the best for the next chapter.”

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