THE only Welsh ref to be selected for the Rugby World Cup has revealed he considered suicide as he prepared to admit: "I'm gay."
Pontyberem official Nigel Owens spoke yesterday of his anguish over coming out as a homosexual man in the macho sport.
"It's such a big taboo to be gay in my line of work, I had to think very hard about it because I didn't want to jeopardise my career," said Nigel, 35, who is to become the 54th Welshman to officiate at the tournament in France this autumn.
"Coming out was very difficult and I tried to live with who I really was for years," he added.
"I knew I was 'different' from my late teens, but I was just living a lie."
But one of his biggest concerns was how his parents would take the news.
"Telling my mother, that was very, very hard," said Nigel, who will make his World Cup debut in Lyon on September 11 when Argentina face Georgia.
"I'd think about how as an only child I wouldn't be able to give her any grandchildren and, at one stage, I got to feeling incredibly low. At times I wished I wasn't gay at all - I still do sometimes, even now."
At one point, he even considered taking his own life.
"I started to think there may only be one way out - but I am who I am and I knew I couldn't go on anymore being unhappy and keeping the truth hidden.
"So, except for my mum and my boss, who I both spoke to, I sent everyone a text telling them everything," said Nigel.
"I can't tell you what some of the replies said!" he joked. But he believed things may have been easier had he been a player.
"The fans love them for what they do and are a lot more prepared to accept them for who they are. I mean, refs aren't exactly the most popular people in the world at the best of times," he said.
But he maintains the reaction has been largely positive: "I might get someone shout something about me being a 'bent ref', but they usually realise what they've said and go, 'Oh, sorry Nige, didn't mean it like that'."
Despite his worries, his family and friends have supported him all the way.
"After all, I don't know of any gay rugby players out there that I could've confided in," he said. "Although if I did, I'd almost certainly give them my phone number!"