HIS career as one of international rugby's best known referees has been exceptional and his work for the national YFC movement has been tireless.

But last month, TikTok viewers reeled after hearing Nigel Owen’s heart-wrenching story of how he attempted to take his own life at the age of 26.

“I left a note for my mam and dad saying I couldn’t cope anymore,” he said from his farm in Mynydd Cerrig near Tumble.

“And that day I did something I shall regret for the rest of my life.”

His suicide attempt was the result of his homosexuality and his failure, at the time, to deal with it.

“I suppose I was scared of being found out,” he says. “Nobody had come out in the macho world of rugby, and that just put me on the dark, dark road."

Following the overdose, Nigel was rushed to hospital where he remained for three days. When he finally came out of intensive care he was told that had an additional 20 minutes passed before he received medical attention, he would have died.

“This is the moment when my life changed forever, but this was also the moment when my life was saved.”

The National Wales: Nigel Owens refereeing. Picture: Huw Evans AgencyNigel Owens refereeing. Picture: Huw Evans Agency

After his attempted suicide, Nigel went on to become one of the most successful sporting officials in history after refereeing 100 test rugby matches and being named 2015’s World Rugby Referee of the Year.

He remains one of the most watched match officialswith his Facebook refereeing compilations, and has amassed more than 35 million views.


Owens retired from refereeing this year at the age of 49 after 20 years spent officiating at the very highest level of rugby union, including working at four Rugby World Cup tournaments.

This Sunday Nigel, 49, will recount his harrowing ordeal in BBC’s Countryfile where he will also address the mental health issues which are confronting today’s society, particularly in relation to the farming and rural communities.

“I know from my own experiences of growing up in a rural area how strong the feelings of loneliness and isolation can be for farmers,” he said. “And also how important it is to provide connections to help people combat these problems.”

Nigel will be joined on Countryfile by members of Ystradgynlais Rugby Club and the Knitting Nannas who are a group of octogenarian ladies from Ystradgynlais who brighten their town happy with their snazzy knitting creations.

Countryside will be shown on BBC 1 this Sunday at 7.05pm.

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