Former Wales captain Ken Owens has announced his retirement from the game after failing to recover from a back problem.

The 37-year-old hooker, who played five Tests for the British and Irish Lions, has been sidelined for almost a year because of the injury, last playing for the Scarlets in April 2023.

Owens won two Grand Slams and two further Six Nations titles during his 91 caps for Wales, whom he led during last year’s Six Nations.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Owen Farrell expressed a desire to play rugby for as long as possible as he left the door open to a potential England return and featuring in the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour.

The Saracens star is poised to become ineligible for his country for at least the next two years after agreeing a summer move to French club Racing 92.

Farrell missed this year’s Guinness Six Nations to prioritise the wellbeing of his family but insists his love of the game has never diminished.

Asked about his international future, he replied: “I’ve not said anything. I don’t know.

“I’ve stepped back and there’s obviously a change happening next year (moving to France). Then we’ll see.

“There’s no point in saying anything now because I don’t know how I’m going to feel later down the line. We’ll see.”

While Rugby Football Union rules prevent overseas-based players from representing England, Farrell could still be selected by the Lions for next summer’s series against Australia.

His father Andy Farrell has been appointed head coach for that three-match tour.

“Have I spoken to my dad about it? I’ve told him ‘well done’, if that counts,” said Farrell.

“There’s nothing to talk about – whatever happens, happens. There are no decisions to be made about any of that.

“When it gets closer to the time, I guess things become clear or they don’t. You see how people are at that time. There is nothing to talk about there at the minute.”

Farrell will make his 250th appearance for the reigning Gallagher Premiership champions in Saturday’s derby against Harlequins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Following last year’s Rugby World Cup in France, where he was jeered by his own supporters, the fly-half opted to step out of the spotlight to spend time with his family.

“Obviously the World Cup was difficult at times but I really enjoyed the playing side of it and being involved,” he said.

“I want to play for as long as I possibly can as long as I am enjoying it.

“I love playing. That’s always been the case, even during the tougher bits as I’ve spoken about.

“I loved the game, and I loved the rugby. I want to enjoy all of it a bit more.

“I’ve been getting back to doing it here at the club, I’ve done that over this time during the Six Nations, and I want to really do that towards the end of the year. And then I want to get better at it next year as well.

“That’s how I think I am going to get the best out of myself and play my best. We’ll see what happens.”

Gloucester have released Wales and British and Irish Lions wing Louis Rees-Zammit with immediate effect to “pursue his dream” of a career in American football.

The Gallagher Premiership club made the surprise announcement as Wales head coach Warren Gatland prepared to unveil his squad for the Guinness Six Nations Championship.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some other multi-talented sports people:

Denis Compton (cricket and football)

Compton played 75 Test matches for England, making his debut in 1937 aged 19 and scoring his first century the following year against Don Bradman’s touring Australian side. He had made his Arsenal debut in 1936 and went on to win the league title in 1948 and FA Cup in 1950 with the Gunners, the same year in which he helped Middlesex win the County Championship.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias (athletics, golf)

Zaharias also excelled at basketball and baseball, but initially made her name in track and field, winning two gold medals and one silver in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Zaharias won the javelin comfortably, took the 80 metres hurdles in a world record time and finished equal first in the high jump before losing the title when her technique was deemed illegal. A latecomer to golf, she won more than 50 titles, including the US Women’s Open three times, and co-founded the LPGA.

Lottie Dod (tennis, golf, archery)

Lottie Dod remains Wimbledon’s youngest women’s singles champion, winning the first of her five titles at just 15 years and 285 days old in 1887. Later turning her attention to golf, she won the 1904 British Ladies Amateur title and four years later won a silver medal in archery at the Olympic Games in London, where her brother Willy claimed gold in the men’s event.

Jim Thorpe (athletics, gridiron, basketball)

The first Native American to win gold for the United States in the Olympics, Thorpe won both the pentathlon and decathlon in Stockholm in 2012. He lost his titles after it emerged he had previously been paid for playing semi-professional baseball, but they were eventually reinstated by the International Olympic Committee. Thorpe played six seasons in major league baseball and for six NFL teams, as well as enjoying a less-well documented spell in professional basketball.

Victoria Pendleton (cycling and horse racing)

Two-time Olympic champion track cyclist Victoria Pendleton announced in March 2015 that she had set her sights on riding in the following year’s Cheltenham Festival. She made her competitive debut in August 2015 and won her first race, on March 2, 2016, on 5-4 favourite Pacha Du Polder at Wincanton. Pendleton then achieved her stated aim of riding in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham and finished fifth, describing the result as “probably the greatest achievement of my life”.

Owen Farrell will still be available for the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia led by his father Andy if he joins Racing 92 next season.

Owen is considering a lucrative move to the Top 14 having spent his entire club career at Saracens, making him ineligible for England selection until he returns to the Gallagher Premiership.

The 32-year-old fly-half has already ruled himself out of the Six Nations in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing, placing his international future in doubt.

But the Lions insist overseas-based players will be considered if Farrell wants them in his squad, even if the finish date of the Top 14 means they might be unavailable for the early games.

“We don’t have a policy that closes off anyone from being selected,” chief executive Ben Calveley said.

“If you just look at previous Lions tours, we’ve had people come on a tour who haven’t been playing for a national side.

“Will Greenwood is a great example, even though we are going back a way there (1997). In 2021 Finn Russell was based in France, so we don’t have any restrictions on selection.”

Farrell will lead the Lions for the first time as reward for his success with Ireland, who he has led to a Grand Slam, an historic 2-1 series victory in New Zealand and to the top of the world rankings.

And he would be willing to pick Owen if his performances justify a place in the squad as the Lions aim to win their first series win since Australia in 2013.

“We’ll consider everyone in regards to whether they will make a difference too the Lions touring party. That’s all that matters,” Farrell said.

“It’s about form, it’s about watching the game properly. Selection, as far as that’s concerned, is the same as for everyone else. No different.”

Farrell insists he has not spoken to Owen, England’s captain since 2019, about his possible move away from Saracens but backs any decision the three-time Lions tourist makes.

“It’s his choice. He does what he thinks is right for him in that moment in time. You can’t go wrong in that regard, can you?” Andy Farrell said.

“It’s a player’s prerogative. It’s their career and it’s a short career. You’ve got to do things that float your boat, that make you and your family happy.

“A career is all about the memories you’re going to create, not just for yourself but for others as well.

“For some, it’s the thought of devoting yourself to one club is extra, extra special and Owen has done that at Saracens.

“But if things do change, and I don’t know whether they will or they won’t, then it will be for the right reasons for doing the right thing for whatever that person needs to do to be happy.”

Farrell worked as an assistant under Warren Gatland on the 2013 and 2017 tours, experiences that left a lasting impression on the 48-year-old Englishman.

“I love everything above the format. I lover the build up to the games. I love how tough that is for the touring party and all the different dynamics that go with that,” Farrell said.

“When it goes to one-all and the Australians are so relieved like in 2013 – you saw the captain on the floor with tears in his eyes cos you knew what it meant.

“Getting yourself back up that week to put in a performance like we did in the third Test is a memory that will stay with you forever. I’m hoping for another one.”

Andy Farrell’s elevation to head coach of the British and Irish Lions is anything but a surprise.

The recently-crowned World Rugby coach of the year was odds-on favourite to land one of the sport’s most prestigious posts after establishing Ireland as global heavyweights.

His impressive impact in Dublin has attracted admirers far and wide and he will spearhead the 2025 tour of Australia with the full support of his predecessor.

“It is the opportunity now for someone else to be head coach and Andy Farrell would have my backing for the job,” Warren Gatland, who selected Farrell as one of his assistants for the Lions tours in 2013 and 2017, said in October.

“You cannot deny what Ireland have achieved as a nation over the last few years. There is no doubt that Andy has done a fantastic job.”

Farrell’s true emergence as the outstanding candidate to succeed Gatland came in 2022 when he masterminded Ireland’s stunning series success in New Zealand.

The historic achievement launched a 17-match winning streak which brought Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam glory, victory over each of rugby’s leading nations and a prolonged spell at the top of the world rankings.

Defeat to the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in October 2023 finally halted the record-breaking run of victories.

Yet that disappointment did little to damage the rising stock of a born leader renowned for emotional intelligence, superb man-management skills, a shrewd rugby brain and an unflappable mentality.

“Everyone runs into camp and never wants to leave – it’s an incredible place to be,” recently-retired Ireland captain Johnny Sexton said of the environment fostered by Farrell.

“I’ve not really seen a manager tick all the boxes like he does.”

Born in Wigan in May 1975, Farrell represented his hometown club in rugby league with distinction.

He made his first-team debut in November 1991 at the age of 16 – two months after the birth of son Owen, the current England captain – and regularly lifted silverware, in addition to twice being named Man of Steel.

Farrell switched codes to play for Saracens in 2005 but the transition was severely hampered by foot surgery and back problems, including a prolapsed disc after a car crash.

Injuries limited him to just eight Test caps in rugby union and kept him sidelined for the latter stages of England’s run to the 2007 World Cup final, where they finished as runners-up to South Africa.

Farrell was later joined at Saracens by a teenage Owen and then remained with the Premiership club following retirement in 2009 to begin his coaching career before joining the England set-up under Stuart Lancaster ahead of the 2012 Six Nations.

Four years later, the 48-year-old headed across the Irish Sea seeking to rebuild his reputation after being dismissed by newly-appointed England coach Eddie Jones in the aftermath of a dismal home World Cup.

Farrell, who initially served as Ireland’s defence coach under Joe Schmidt before stepping into the leading role following the 2019 World Cup, has since given the RFU cause for regret.

Following a rocky transitional period amid the coronavirus pandemic, his vision of a slick system of short, swift interplay clicked into gear in devastating fashion and to widespread acclaim.

His well-earned reward has been two contract extensions from the IRFU – initially until 2025 and then 2027 – and now an opportunity to lead the Lions.

The Englishman is tasked with returning the multi-nation team to winning ways following a 2-1 defeat to the Springboks in 2021.

“He loves everything about the Lions and he epitomises what’s great about it,” said two-time tourist Tommy Bowe, who was coached by Farrell on the victorious trip to Australia in 2013.

“He’s very much about working extremely hard on the pitch but also being able to have a laugh off the pitch and I think that’s what the Lions is.”

Andy Farrell has been confirmed as the British and Irish Lions head coach for their 2025 tour to Australia.

Farrell will lead the Lions for the first time after serving as an assistant under Warren Gatland for the 2013 and 2017 visits to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

“It is a tremendous honour and a privilege to be named head coach of the British and Irish Lions,” the 48-year-old Englishman said.

“There is a wealth of talent across Britain and Ireland, and I am looking forward to building a team that can deliver the ultimate goal of success in Australia.”

The British and Irish Lions are expected to name Andy Farrell as their head coach for the 2025 tour to Australia.

Farrell is set to take charge of the Lions for the first time having served as an assistant under Warren Gatland on the 2013 and 2017 trips to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

The 48-year-old Englishman would succeed Gatland in one of the most prestigious roles in the game having impressed during his four-year reign as Ireland head coach, masterminding a Grand Slam and a historic 2-1 series victory in New Zealand.

Ireland also topped the global rankings until being nudged into second place by South Africa, who were crowned back-to-back world champions last autumn.

While the World Cup proved a disappointment because of the quarter-final exit inflicted by the All Blacks, Farrell has shaped an outstanding side who should provide the largest number of players to his Lions squad.

The former dual code international missed the 2021 tour to South Africa because of his Ireland commitments, but he will lead the home unions against the Wallabies with the blessing of the Irish Rugby Football Union.

When Farrell’s contract was extended to 2027 in December, IRFU performance director David Nucifora said: “We’d be ecstatic if Andy was named coach of the Lions so hopefully that accolade is the next one for him.”


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Farrell won eight caps as a centre in 2007 following his move from Wigan rugby league club and then moved into coaching, first with Saracens and then with England, serving as an assistant to Stuart Lancaster.


He joined Ireland after the 2015 World Cup and succeeded Joe Schmidt as their head coach four years later.

He has yet to experience defeat with the Lions having helped clinch a 2-1 series victory over Australia in 2013 and drawn series with New Zealand in 2017.

Andy Farrell is expected to be named British and Irish Lions head coach for the 2025 tour to Australia on Thursday.

A month after agreeing a contract to remain in charge of Ireland until the end of the 2027 World Cup, Farrell is set to be confirmed as Warren Gatland’s successor in the Lions role at a lunchtime press conference in central London.

The 48-year-old Englishman is seen as the outstanding candidate for one of the game’s most prestigious posts, having masterminded last year’s Grand Slam and an historic 2-1 series victory in New Zealand in 2022.

Ireland also enjoyed a lengthy stay at the summit of the world rankings under his guidance until they were forced into second place by repeat World Cup winners South Africa last autumn.

Farrell would be leading the Lions for the first time, having impressed as an assistant coach under Gatland on the 2013 and 2017 tours, and his appointment would have the blessing of the Irish Rugby Football Union.

“We’d be ecstatic if Andy was named coach of the Lions so hopefully that accolade is the next one for him,” IRFU performance director David Nucifora said in December.

In addition to his management credentials, Farrell has the benefit of coaching the nation that is expected to provide the bulk of the touring party unless England, Scotland or Wales threaten Ireland’s ascendancy over the next 18 months.


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The dual code international won eight caps as a centre in 2007 following his move from Wigan rugby league club and then moved into coaching, first with Saracens and then with England, serving as an assistant under Stuart Lancaster.

He joined Ireland after the 2015 World Cup and succeeded Joe Schmidt as their head coach four years later.

An inspirational figure, he has yet to experience series defeat with the Lions having helped clinch a 2-1 victory over Australia in 2013 and a drawn series with New Zealand in 2017.

He was unavailable for the most recent tour to South Africa due to his commitments with Ireland but there is no objection this time from the IRFU, which is likely to grant him a sabbatical.

It will be the first time the Lions have been led by anyone other than Gatland since 2009, with Wales’ Kiwi boss having already ruled himself out of the running.

Next year’s tour schedule launches against Western Force on June 28, with the first Test taking place in Brisbane on July 19.

Warren Gatland has backed Andy Farrell to be the next British and Irish Lions head coach after ruling himself out of the running for the 2025 tour of Australia.

New Zealander Gatland, who late last year returned for a second spell as Wales boss, has overseen the last three Lions tours.

Farrell was on Sunday named World Rugby coach of the year after leading Ireland to a Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam amid a 17-match winning run.

“A few weeks ago, I was asked by Nigel Walker, Wales’ director of rugby, if I was interested in putting my name forward to be head coach for the next tour in Australia in 2025,” Gatland wrote in his column for the Telegraph.

“It did not take long to get back to him.

“I told him I was not going to put my name forward. I told Nigel that I would have no problem if any of my support staff were to be asked to be involved as I would see it as a great experience for them.

“But I think it is the opportunity now for someone else to be head coach and Andy Farrell would have my backing for the job.

“You cannot deny what Ireland have achieved as a nation over the last few years. There is no doubt that Andy has done a fantastic job.”

Gatland led the Lions to a 2-1 win in Australia in 2013, a drawn series in New Zealand in 2017 and a 2-1 defeat in South Africa in 2021.

Farrell was part of the 60-year-old’s coaching staff for the first two of those three tours.

The 48-year-old Englishman’s stock has risen significantly over the past couple of years, albeit Ireland suffered a quarter-final exit at the Rugby World Cup in France following a 28-24 defeat to runners-up New Zealand.

Gatland, who also assisted Sir Ian McGeechan on the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa, offered to support his successor in an advisory capacity.

“If the next head coach wants to tap into my experiences from the last four tours, then I would still love to be involved in some way by passing on the knowledge and experience I have gained in trying to create harmony within a group of players from different backgrounds,” he continued.

“For the Lions, it is the least I can do.”

Wales head coach Warren Gatland says Ireland counterpart Andy Farrell is the only real contender to lead the British and Irish Lions on their tour to Australia in 2025.

Gatland was in charge of the Lions on consecutive tours in 2013, 2017 and 2021.

The 59-year-old's shock return as Wales boss last week means he may now be in the running for the next tour in two and a half years' time.

However, Gatland believes on current credentials, Farrell is perfectly suited for the role following his impressive work with Ireland.

"If you are picking a Lions coach at the moment, there is only one person that I think is in contention," he told reporters. "He is across the water and living in Dublin at the minute. 

"If you are successful, those opportunities come along. I hadn't even thought about [the Lions tour]. I am just thinking about the next 10 months.

"I am well aware of how important the Six Nations and World Cup are next year.

"I don't plan my pathway. I am a believer of if you are in the right place at the right time, then opportunities come along. What will be, will be."

Farrell oversaw a historic Test series triumph against New Zealand in July and then added the scalps of South Africa and Australia in November.

Ireland are top of the world rankings, whereas Wales are down in ninth on the back of a poor year that led to the dismissal of Wayne Pivac.

Gatland has been tasked with turning things around in his second spell at the helm, with a showdown against Ireland first up in Wales' 2023 Six Nations opener on February 4.

"Facing them first is probably good, as they are the best team in the world, and rightly so," Gatland said.

"Getting them first up at home is not the worst thing. It's a tournament of momentum. You win your first game and you've got a good chance of doing well.

"To get them first up, it's probably the one game you want at home – playing against the best team where there is probably a bit more pressure on them.

"I think we will be pretty excited about getting ready for the game."

South Africa great John Smit believes Rassie Erasmus' approach has made the Springboks "easy to dislike" after the latter was banned for criticising match officials.

Springboks director of rugby Erasmus was handed a two-match ban by World Rugby after posting on Twitter about the officiating in a defeat to France on November 12.

It is not the first time the former South Africa head coach has come into trouble with the governing body, recently returning from a year-long matchday ban for his conduct against the British and Irish Lions.

Smit acknowledged many coaches will share similar frustrations but was unforgiving in his analysis of Erasmus, who was absent for last Saturday's victory over Italy and will miss the next Test against England.

"It's hard to defend him," South Africa's most-capped player Smit told the Rugby Union Daily post. "The way he has approached this is not right.

"Are you telling me Rassie is the only coach frustrated by a call that has gone the wrong way?

"Something has to be done. There has to be a line that has to be drawn, and he is making it difficult for his team. It's made us, as a rugby team, so easy to dislike."

South Africa face England on Saturday at Twickenham as the Proteas look to build on a 63-21 victory over Italy.

Australia and New Zealand could field a combined ANZAC team against the British and Irish Lions in 2025, with talks ongoing between the two national governing bodies.

The Wallabies are set to welcome the Lions for a three-game tour for the first time since 2013, when the visitors won an enthralling series 2-1.

But the prospect of the hosts linking up with the All Blacks for an additional encounter could yet be on the table following preliminary discussions.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan says discussions have started with counterparts at New Zealand Rugby, with provisional hopes to stage the match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"We've talked to the Kiwis about hosting an ANZAC team against the Lions in 2025, and they're considering the idea," he told the Daily Mail.

"I'm in no doubt it would be a belter, and we'd sell the MCG out with 100,000 fans. The best of the Wallabies and the All Blacks against the Lions would create enormous global coverage."

The prospect of the Lions facing an ANZAC XV would not be unprecedented, with the tourists previously facing a combined team in the final game of their 1989 tour in Brisbane.

Former Wales captain and broadcaster Eddie Butler has died at the age of 65.

Butler played 16 times for Wales between 1980 and 1984 and skippered the side multiple times.

The number eight was also part of the British and Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 1983, before later making a successful move into broadcasting.

Butler had been taking part in a fundraising hike for Prostate Cymru in Peru alongside his daughter Nell when he passed away in his sleep on Thursday.

Confirming the news in a statement on social media, the charity said: "The Prostate Cymru charity is devastated by the passing of its much-loved ambassador Eddie Butler.

"Ed was the voice of Wales and we were honoured to have him as part of our charity. We will cherish the many memories we have of him.

"Over the last week, Ed once again showed his generosity and steadfast commitment to good causes by joining 25 Prostate Cymru fundraisers, including his daughter Nell, on the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu.

"In the early hours of Thursday 15 September, Ed passed away peacefully in his sleep at Ecoinka base camp in the Peruvian Andes."

Butler leaves behind his wife Susan and six children.

Wales great and former British and Irish Lions captain Phil Bennett has died aged 73.

Bennett is widely regarded as one of the best fly-halves to ever play for Wales, making 29 appearances for his country and helping them to two Five Nations grand slams and three triple crowns.

He was also an integral figure on the unbeaten British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 1974, while he enjoyed 20 outings with the Barbarians.

Bennett, who was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2005, was also just the second Welshman to captain the Lions on their 1977 visit to New Zealand.

Former club Scarlets confirmed the passing of their president on Sunday, with executive chairman Simon Muderack saying: "As a club, region and community, we are devastated by this news.

"Wherever the Scarlets travel around the world, people mention the name Phil Bennett. He was an icon of our sport, a rugby superstar, but someone who always remembered his roots.

"There was no finer ambassador of Scarlets Rugby than Phil, a player respected across the rugby world, both during his career and long after he finished playing.

"Phil was a hero and friend to so many people, not only in Llanelli and west Wales, but throughout the game and I am sure a lot of Scarlets supporters will have their own particular stories of the times they met and chatted to 'Benny'. He loved the club and epitomised the values we hold true – humility and pride in our community.

"On behalf of everyone at the Scarlets, we send our heartfelt condolences to Pat, Steven, James and all of Phil's family and friends at this incredibly sad time."

Former England international and British and Irish Lion Tom Youngs has announced his retirement from rugby.

The hooker had not appeared for Leicester Tigers this season after taking an indefinite period of leave at the start of the campaign to care for his ill wife.

Now, Youngs – the brother of Ben, England's most capped player, and the son of Nick, another ex-international – is calling time on his career.

The 35-year-old appeared 28 times for his country and in three Lions Tests during the 2013 tour of Australia.

"I had always planned around this season being my last and I am comfortable with the timing of it now," Youngs said.

He added: "I want to thank my family for all that they have done to help me achieve what I have been able to do throughout my career.

"My mum, my dad, my brother and all of my extended family, I am so lucky to have them.

"Finally, to my wife Tiff and daughter Maisie, I am lucky to have you alongside me and would not be where I am without you. Thank you both."

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