Michael Owen Joins Historic Climb :: 30 Aug 17:00

MICHAEL Owen famously replaced an injured Gareth Thomas to captain Wales to a Grand Slam and now the Pontypridd-born star is doing it again.

The Lions forward will join 15 other former Wales captains and coach Warren Gatland as they attempt to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro next month.

Owen, 29, announced his retirement from rugby earlier this year and is the only Grand Slam-winning captain in the team, which aims to raise lb1m for Velindre Cancer Centre’s Stepping Stones appeal.

He replaced Thomas because of the latter’s continued playing commitments with the Crusaders rugby league side.

The 29-year-old said: “When I got asked initially I was in the middle of rehab for my knee and was sure that I would be making a comeback to the field so I unfortunately had to turn it down. But when I was asked the second time, after I had retired, I had no hesitations in saying yes.”

Owen, who was the 1,000th player to be capped by Wales when he made his international debut in 2002, has spent the summer in Spain with his family resting his knee.

And because he has joined the Brains SA Captains Climb team so late, he’s hoping his basic fitness levels will help him reach the summit at 5,893m.

He said: "It is quite a unique type of challenge in the way you have to approach it – especially for a rugby player.

“You naturally want to go at it like a bull at a gate, but it’s more of a slow and steady thing.

“The chances of failure in reaching the top are almost in the lap of the gods when it comes to altitude sickness.

“It’s not the sort of thing you can guts it out with and push to make the top.

“But I can’t wait to get started and enjoy every step of it. I’m just hoping my knee will cope with it.”

The Captains Climb aims to raise money to improve the care of people with lung cancer and research into the deadly disease, which affects more than 2,000 people a year in Wales.

To support the Brains SA Captains Climb visit www.justgiving.com/ brainssacaptainsclimb or to donate £2 by text message, text Climb to 70099. Texts cost £2 plus one standard message from your network provider.