A 35-year-old referee has spoken of his personal struggle before coming out of the closet.

Nigel Owens is the only openly gay man to be a rugby union ref at the highest level of the game.

He told The Sun that he thought about killing himself rather than reveal his sexuality.

He is due to officiate at the Rugby World Cup in France later this year.

Mr Owens, from Pontyberem, South Wales, said:

“It’s such a big taboo to be gay in my line of work.

“I had to think very hard because I didn’t want to jeopardise my career.

“It was very difficult – I started to think there may only be one way out.

“I don’t know of any gay rugby players I could have confided in.

“But I knew I couldn’t go on being unhappy and keeping the truth hidden.”

Mr Owens informed most people of his sexuality by text message.

In November Bob Rogers, the president of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said the sport’s values of respect can help create an impact on wider society.

The RFU joined with gay rugby team the Kings Cross Steelers and the Metropolitan Police to launch a new poster campaign against homophobia.

The message is based on the Football Association’s Kick Racism Out of Football campaign, which also includes homophobia.

Posters will be displayed at sporting venues in changing rooms and where participants and spectators gather.

Gay rugby club the Kings Cross Steelers’ chairman Sean Robertson told PinkNews.co.uk last year: “Rugby doesn’t have problems with homophobia like other sports.

“The game teaches tolerance, respect and sportsmanship.”

The 2007 World Cup will be held from September 7th to October 20th.

20 nations will contest 48 matches over 44 days.

Forty-two matches will be spread between ten French cities, with six matches held in the UK.