Owens' Wales need England win to restore pride after turbulent times
Wales captain Ken Owens said on Friday his team desperately need to beat England in the Six Nations this weekend to restore pride in the Welsh jersey after turbulent times that saw a player strike averted midweek.
The Welsh have endured their worst start to a Six Nations since 2007 with opening losses to Ireland (34-10) and Scotland (35-7).
They were compounded by players threatening to strike over contractual issues as they took on the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) head-on before this Saturday's game.
Owens, as skipper, was instrumental in the negotiations that saw Welsh rugby bosses cut to 25 from 60 the number of Test caps needed for a player based with a club outside Wales to play internationally.
The WRU also gave the green light to player representation at meetings and the introduction of a fixed contract.
"We need a win to get pride back in the shirt after two defeats," Owens said, adding the team had been "galvanised" by the disruption he said had left Wales the "laughing stock" of world rugby.
"It has been a horrendous two weeks, but we can only focus on the rugby now, moving forward. That's what we need to focus on, getting a result on Saturday to put some pride back into the shirt.
"It's trying to finish this saga on a positive."
Owens, reiterating the need for "a sustainable future for the game in Wales", said the stand-off with the WRU had been "a shame". "But what is done is done, what has gone has gone.
"We have made a stand, we have made people stand up and take notice and showed the strength we have as a playing group."
Turning to England, who opened their Six Nations with a 29-23 defeat by Scotland before rebounding with a 31-14 victory over Italy, Owens said they would be no pushover.
"They are a quality side, in a bit of transition the same as us, new coaching staff, some new players coming in," the Scarlets hooker said.
"They have gone back to being very set-piece orientated, as you would expect because that is a massive strength of English rugby... They will be coming at us up front on Saturday and it is up to us to front up and match that challenge head on."
- 'Definitely galvanised' -
Owens shared duties on the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand with Jamie George, the Saracens and England hooker who was the preferred starter.
And George has been vocal in his support of Owens and his Welsh teammates.
"We have a huge amount of sympathy for the Welsh players. I can understand why they’re as frustrated as they are and it’s unfortunate that these things have to happen," George said.
"Rugby is in a bit of an interesting space at the moment and player voice is as important as ever. I’m glad they have stood up for themselves and I hope they can get sorted."
George also predicted a backlash from Wales from a week of adversity that has grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
"You kind of love it when things aren’t going go well off the field and there is a lot of noise going on," he said.
"What it can do is really rally you and make you a stronger unit – it is us against the world let’s go out and do it and prove some people wrong and I am sure those are the sort of messages people like Alun Wyn (Jones) are giving out this week."
Owens all but confirmed that, saying that the last two weeks had "definitely galvanised" the Wales team and "that has shown in the unity of the actions that were taken".
"It was a last resort and the frustrations that have built up over a year, not just the last six weeks, brought it to this. The squad has been galvanised and come together and I'm sure you will see that on Saturday."