This time last year, Ken and Vicky Owens became the first ever brother and sister to represent Wales at Twickenham. Here, the men’s hooker and women’s lock forward talk about the joys and challenges of being rugby siblngs…
Ken Owens on his sister Vicky
As a boy growing up in Wales, especially when your old man and your uncles are all big in the local rugby club, you’re expected to play rugby. I started playing touch rugby when I was about four. I’ve grown up with it really.
It was different for Vick. There is still a stigma about women’s rugby. When I heard she had started playing for Carmarthen juniors, I was like, “Fair play, crack on!” It was my mother who was worried. I think she thought it was a bit of a phase and Vick might grow out of it. And to be fair my parents have been just as supportive of her as me since. Vick won’t ever make a living out of just playing rugby. She has to work.
I remember when Vick won her first Wales cap, a busload of us, pretty much the whole family, the village, town, we got a 60-seater coach up to watch her play. It’s the same with Jack, our youngest cousin, who played for Wales under-16s: four carloads went up to North Wales to watch him. We all support each other.
My father’s a big man, about 6ft 4in. Vick was a bit taller than many of the girls at school, but she wasn’t a tomboy as such. She enjoyed her sport and got involved, but she also played the clarinet. I’ve never been nervous for her. She’s physically strong, athletic, fit. Most of the time I was more worried for the boys playing her!
People do say negative things. If the boys see the girls training they may make a stupid comment, and then they’ll see me and apologise. But I don’t mind; it’s just banter. We all take the mick out of each other, and if we can do the same with the girls it shows we’re comfortable.
Vicky Owens on her brother Ken
I got capped for Wales before Ken did, although he was on the bench quite a few times. This Christmas he was bantering with me about how he’s got more caps than me. My cousin said: “Yeah, but Vick got capped first!” I always get the last word.
Our parents have always been quite laidback. No one ever expected me to be a girly girl. I played rugby with the boys until I was about 11, and then, because there were no girls’ teams, I turned to netball and hockey. I was about 15 when I started playing rugby again. I’d basically been chucked out of county netball because they told me I was too physical!
Even though we don’t seem that close, Ken is quite protective of me. I can remember once this boy started shouting at me, and Ken chased him up the street with a baguette! One thing Ken does get wound up about, though, is my socks. We’d both have a pair of Welsh socks and I’d mix them up, have one from last year and one from this year. And he’d kick off!
I think hangups about women playing rugby, stereotypes about body image etc, are changing. Before the Six Nations started I was coaching touch rugby in a girls’ school. A lot of the girls connect me with Ken, which is good because it’s making women’s rugby a bigger deal. I’ve even seen some girls come down with orange tans, eye make-up and all the rest of it!
This weekend’s Six Nations matches:
Italy v Wales Sat 2:00pm (k/o 2:30pm) BBC1/2:30pm 5 Live Sp Ex England v France Sat 4:30pm (k/o 5pm) BBC1/5pm 5 Live Scotland v Ireland Sun 1:30pm (k/o 2pm) BBC1/ 2pm 5 Live