Rugby World Cup 2015: Nigel Owens to referee Saturday's final

Story highlights

  • Nigel Owens to referee World Cup final
  • New Zealand play Australia in Saturday's showpiece

(CNN)Once on the verge of suicide as he came to terms with his sexuality, Nigel Owens declared himself "humbled and honored" after being chosen to referee Saturday's Rugby World Cup final.

Renowned for his assertive and quick-witted manner in dealing with any player brave enough to challenge his decisions, the 44-year-old Welshman will take charge of the match between New Zealand and Australia at London's Twickenham Stadium.
An international referee for the last decade, Owens is also one of the most prominent gay men in sport having come out in 2007.
    "This is a huge honor and a privilege for me," Owens said Monday. "This is my third World Cup and I think it has been the best. It has been inspirational.
    "The quality of rugby on display has been incredible in front of packed venues and so to be given the opportunity to referee the final match between the best two teams in the tournament is an amazing honor."
    Owens' appointment was greeted with approval by a host of famous rugby names, including current Welsh captain Sam Warburton and former England hooker Brian Moore, who now works as a television pundit.
    As he rose to the top of the sport, Owens was also coming to terms with the fact that he was a homosexual.
    "I was going downhill very fast, to a very dark place where there was no way out for me," he told the BBC in an interview which will be broadcast in the UK on Monday, as he opened up about his attempt at suicide when he was 26.
    "I did something one night I will regret for the rest of my life. I left a note for my mum and dad and said I can't carry on any more with my life. I didn't tell them why.
    "I left the house that night with a shotgun loaded and with boxes of paracetamol and a bottle of whisky, and just walked around the village of Mynydd Cerrig for the last time.
    "If I hadn't have gone into a coma I have no doubts whatsoever I would have pulled that trigger of the gun."
    Even now, Owens still faces ignorance and prejudice from a vocal minority and in March the referee spoke about how he had been the target of internet trolls following a match between England and France.
    Despite the marked difference in respect shown to referees by footballers in comparison to rugby players, Owens revealed last month he would love to referee a football match.
    Considering how he would handle 22 rowdy footballers, Owens joked in a Radio Times interview: "I'm afraid they'd be down to five-a-side before half-time."
    As he prepares for the pinnacle of his refereeing career, Owens expressed one regret.
    "I want to thank my friends and family for their ongoing support and for helping me through some rough times in my life," he added.
    "My dad, in particular, is always there for me and is delighted with this news -- it's just a shame my mother is not here to see this as she was a pillar of strength for me.
    "She passed away six years ago and I know she would have been very proud."