Grand Slam skipper hangs up boots

Wales’ Grand Slam skipper in 2005, Michael Owen, has been forced to quit rugby because of a knee injury.

The 29-year-old No 8, the only man to have captained the British & Irish Lions in a home Test, played 72 games in the tournament for Pontypridd and then the Dragons.

He joined Saracens at the start of the 2008/09 season, but had his career with the English club wrecked by a stream of injuries, the final one being a knee problem picked up in an Amlin Challenge Cup clash with Toulon last season.

Owen led the Lions in their drawn international against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium in 2005 before heading Down Under to New Zealand for the three Test campaign against the All Blacks. Although Gareth Thomas skippered the Lions in the second and third Tests on tour, Owen became the first Welshman since Phil Bennett 27 years earlier to lead the Lions into a Test match

He played in six games on the tour, leading the side again in the midweek win over Southland, but failed to break into the Test team in the 3-0 series defeat. He returned home during the tour for the birth of his second daughter, but flew back to New Zealand and played in the final non-Test fixture against Auckland.

Owen was capped by Wales at Under 19 level and led his country into the final of the IRB Under 19 World Cup in Wales in 1999. He went on to play for Pontypridd, Newport Gwent Dragons and finally Saracens.

He became Wales’ 1,000th international when Steve Hansen capped him against South Africa in 2002 and went on to win 41 caps, including appearances in the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

He played second row as well as No 8 for his country and took over the captaincy of the 2005 Grand Slam winning side when Gareth Thomas picked up an injury half-way through the campaign. His last game for Wales was in the final Pool match of the 2007 Rugby World Cup against Fiji in Nantes.

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