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Rugby: Nigel Owens opens up about suicide and state of rugby

One of world rugby's greatest ever referees has opened up about why he thinks rugby is one of the most accepting sports in the world, helping him shape who he is today as an openly gay referee.

Speaking with NZME's Tony Veitch, Owens addressed questions around the current state of rugby given the Chiefs' stripper scandal, the recent Aaron Smith saga, and the notion that rugby is not diverse and inclusive.

Despite what some might think, Owens says he gets annoyed when people tell him rugby is in crisis.

Nigel Owens criticises motives behind new referees

"Society, rugby and all of the sports have a way to go," Owens said. "But I could not be who I am today if it wasn't for rugby and the people within rugby.

"There will be a minority, maybe one or two players, one or two supporters, one or two fellow officials, who don't like the fact that I'm gay.

"In rugby, they are a very small minority."

Owens then discussed the problems he had faced prior to the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final.

In a documentary titled True to Myself, Owens opens up about his attempted suicide and how David Pocock and Jerome Kaino helped further his admiration for rugby.

"The programme went through some of the dark times in my life, when I came within a few seconds of dying when I attempted to take my life in a night that I will never forget for the rest of my life," Owens said.

"It was a dark place I was in, what I put my mum and dad through when I left that note - I'll never forgive myself for doing that."


"After the final, David Pocock came up and shook my hand and said, 'Nigel, thanks for the great game'."

"You know a guy, who just lost out on winning a World Cup medal, finds time to come up and tell you that.

"Just after that, Jerome Kaino came up and shook my hand and this guy had just won the World Cup.

"He said, 'Nigel, thanks very much. I watched your programme last night and I thought it was brilliant. I think you're a credit to the sport and you can be very proud of yourself'."This guy has just come up and shook my hand, he should be running around the field with his teammates and celebrating winning a world cup.

"So when people write or tell me there are issues within rugby or sport, no doubt there are issues, but I can honestly say, that I only have huge admiration."

Where to get help

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111

- NZ Herald

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