Red has been a consistent colour throughout Ken Owens’ rugby career, with him representing the Scarlets, Wales and the British and Irish Lions on a journey that he shares with viewers of Jersey Tales, a new YouTube series from World Rugby.
In what is the fourth episode of the show, the Welsh hooker talks through the jerseys he’s worn on the pitch that hold a personal significance to him.
Owens toured New Zealand with the Lions in 2017, and will get to do so again to South Africa in July and August, after making Warren Gatland’s latest squad. And the famous red jersey is unsurprisingly one of the most treasured in his collection.
“To be named in the team to start in the second game against the Blues was a lifelong dream achieved.” Owens said. “Then, I remember sitting outside the team room just before the team announcement was due to happen and Warren Gatland coming up to me and going, ‘will you be captain?’ I said, ‘of course!’.
“I don’t believe to this day that in my first Lions game I had the honour of carrying Bill (the name of the tourists’ mascot) out and being captain of the British and Irish Lions.”
A mother of all introductions
Owens has a massive emotional attachment to the Scarlets, having joined the club’s academy in 2004. Understandably his debut for the west Walians is a highlight, and not even a spat with legendary All Black Carlos Spencer could ruin it.
“I made my debut at Franklin’s Gardens and it meant a lot. I had my parents watching as well,” said the man nicknamed the Sheriff, for his leadership qualities.
“Carlos Spencer put me over the hoardings and you had my mother running down the steps and my father stopping her, saying ‘you’ve got to let him look after himself’, which I don’t think I did very well.”
Owens reveals how he also managed to get hold of another All Blacks jersey, this time opposite number Dane Coles, but after a struggle of a different kind.
Meanwhile, the jersey he wore for his 50th Wales cap, soaked in blood, sweat and tears, after one of the longest shifts of his career, is another that Owens looks at with pride, while his collection also features jerseys from non-players like the world’s most-capped referee Nigel Owens, who, as he points out, is no relation, despite them living in the same village.
Watch the full episode above, and don’t forget to check the official World Rugby YouTube channel for a new episode every Thursday.