The Scarlets hooker is hanging up his boots aged 37 due to injury

Former Wales captain Ken Owens has announced his retirement from professional rugby after failing to recover from a back injury.

The Scarlets hooker led his country in the 2023 Six Nations, battling contract negotiations and the threat of strike action, but injury prevented him from making last year’s World Cup and he finishes his career with 91 Wales caps, the last of which came against France in March 2023.

Related: Wales Women’s Six Nations squad

Owens toured New Zealand in 2017 and South Africa in 2021 with the British & Irish Lions, making five Test appearances, and finishes as a one-club man, racking up 277 Scarlets appearances and spending seven seasons as captain, 20 years after he was picked up by the region in 2004.

The 37-year-old said: “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.  

“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.”

Rugby World columnist Owens made his professional debut for his region in 2004 before making the step up to international level at the 2011 World Cup. He also played in the 2015 and 2019 tournaments.

Affectionately known as The Sheriff – he even has a Biltong brand called The Sheriff’s Biltong – Owens credits his success to the support he has received both on and off the pitch over the last two decades.

Ken Owens retires: What he had to say about the news

He added: “Across the clubs of Wales there are countless volunteers who, like my parents at the Athletic, give their time energy and commitment to this game. When you are lucky enough to play for Wales, you never lose sight of the fact that these are the people who put you in the shirt. The thousands of people who make up the community game in Wales all play their part. I hope I did them proud.

“There are countless people I would like to thank. My mother and father have supported me from the minute I first played. My sister Victoria was capped before me so even though the novelty had worn off, they still managed to encourage me on my journey. 

“My club, Carmarthen Athletic, gave me so much. A brilliant introduction to rugby and friends for life. I can never thank the people there adequately. 

“My only professional club, the Scarlets, believed in me and I hope my loyalty over 19 years has repaid the faith you showed.  To have played 91 times for Wales is an honour I can never fully describe. To be a Lion… lost for words. 

“My wife has been unbelievable, diolch Carys, permanently keeping my feet on the ground! To my boys, Efan and Talfan, thank you for completing my family. My coaches. The support staff. Diolch yn fawr iawn.”

While his next move remains unclear – ““I will take some time to reflect and decide what to do next. If I can give back to my community and the game a fraction of what it has given me I will be a very proud man” – Ken Owens retires after 18 months of Welsh language channel S4C cameras following him with a documentary premiering on 2 June. 

What do you make of the news that Ken Owens retires as a one-club man and 91-cap Wales international? Let us know on social media or email

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