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World's most capped referee Nigel Owens hails MBE as 'huge honour'

Welsh rugby union referee Nigel Owens has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Nigel Owens Credit: PA

Referee Nigel Owens was granted the honour on the day he is due to become the world's most capped rugby referee when he takes charge of his 71st international match between Fiji and Tonga in Suva.

"It is a huge honour to be recognised in this way. Refereeing has opened up so many doors to me since I took up the whistle as a teenager as soon as I realised I wasn't going to make it as a player. "Refereeing has enabled me to play a part in some of the biggest club and international matches in world rugby, and of course taking charge of the Rugby World Cup final last year was one of the most memorable events in world sport."

– Nigel Owens

Owens has been decorated for Services to Sport although his charity work has also been recognised in the official citation.

Having come out as gay in 2007, Owens said the unstinting support of those within his sport had helped him overcome personal difficulties and establish himself as its most decorated and recognisable official.

He added: "Rugby has enabled me to be who I am today and I hope that talking about my off-field experiences such as coming out and depression helps other people come to terms with their own personal battles.

"I would like to thank the Welsh Rugby Union and all of the rugby community for their support over the years, especially through the difficult years in my personal life.

"Most of all, I'd like to thank my dad, my late mum and all my friends in and out of rugby for all the love and support over the years. I owe more to them and to the great sport that is rugby union than they or rugby will ever owe to me."


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