His sympathetic, but quick-witted responses on the field have earned him a cult following
“My parents helped get me through my difficult time and the Welsh Rugby Union and everyone involved in refereeing and in rugby also gave me great support and allowed me to be myself.
“I had a message on Facebook yesterday from a young guy who had contemplated committing suicide and was suffering from depression. He read about my story about coming out and he found the courage to come out as well.
“So I really am honoured and humbled to be named on this list with some great rugby people and also knowing that I am there for the right reasons in terms of trying to break down barriers in rugby and in sport.
“It is so important to make sport a safe environment to participate at whatever level they want.”
Owens, 44, is known and admired in particular for his communication skills during matches and became a hit on social media for telling Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg to stop diving in the World Cup match against South Africa at St James’ Park in Newcastle.
Hogg appeared to dive to the floor after being brushed by South African prop Tendai Mtawarira and Owens was unimpressed by the theatrics, warning Hogg during the match: “If you want to dive like that again, come back here in two weeks and play [when football will once again be played at Newcastle United’s famous ground], not today. Watch it.”
Everyone involved in refereeing and in rugby gave me support and allowed me to be myself
His sympathetic, but often quick-witted responses on the field have earned him a cult following and also a sideline as a co-presenter of rugby show Jonathan on S4C, hosted by Welsh rugby legend Jonathan Davies.
A former school technician and youth worker, Owens broke through on to the international refereeing circuit in 2005 and took charge of his first Test when Japan hosted Ireland in Osaka that summer.
He refereed his first senior club game in Wales when he was just 16 and hopes his profile can help attract more people to consider taking up refereeing.
“A lot of young people contact me who want to try out refereeing and I pass their details on to the Welsh Rugby Union if they are from Wales, or the union of their country,” Owens added.
“I know for a fact that we have a huge amount of young referees in Wales and I have played a part, albeit unknowingly, in getting people to take it up because the more people that we have refereeing then the better it is.
“We can cover all the levels of games with qualified referees and the more people who take it up then the quality of referees will improve as well.
“It has also opened up people’s eyes to what an enjoyable experience it can be.”
The Rugby Power 50 panel
Josh Lewsey England World Cup winner in 2003, WRU head of rugby and Toshiba representative
Will Greenwood England World Cup winner in 2003, Telegraph columnist and Sky Sports analyst
Maggie Alphonsi England World Cup winner in 2014
Paul Vaughan ex-chief executive of England Rugby 2015; RFU business operations director
John O’Neill former chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union
Gavin Mairs Telegraph rugby writer
Jonathan Davies former Wales outside-half and now BBC analyst
Mick Cleary Telegraph rugby correspondent
Nigel Owens is one of the most influential men in rugby. He is valued for his ability to control the game and gain respect from players on the pitch. He is also admired for coming out about his sexuality and helping to change perceptions. He will continue to motivate others to pursue a career in refereeing and inspire those who experience challenge around their sexuality not to fear the opinions of others.
– Maggie Alphonsi
Toshiba, the global electronics company, is proud to be an official sponsor of Rugby World Cup 2015 – the third successive tournament at which it has had such a role.
The company, which is also the official sponsor of the Japan men’s rugby union team, is providing many of its products to support the running of the event.
Toshiba has six “pillars” by which it runs. These are community, sustainability, leadership, innovation, quality and design.
These principles are fundamental to rugby and were used to help decide the Rugby Power 50.
Who is No 1? For the full Rugby Power 50, visit telegraph.co.uk/rugbypower50