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Hooker Owens' dramatic positional switch

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PRO 14    

Wales hooker Owens forced into major positional switch for Scarlets

Ken Owens has 60 caps for Wales and is a British & Irish Lions hooker, but the Scarlets captain has been forced into a dramatic positional switch as the Welsh club deal with a major injury crisis.

Owens who is ranked as the world’s 15th best hooker in the RugbyPass Index, with an RPI of 84 and a lineout score of 89, will have to watch on as Ryan Elias takes on the hooking duties, while the 32-year-old packs down elsewhere in the starting XV.

Owens has been named at number 8 as the Scarlets host the Dragons at Parc y Scarlets looking to rebound from their 34-5 defeat by Cardiff Blues – the first time they’d lost at home in the PRO14 since September, 2016.

The Scarlets have been ravaged by injuries in their backrow with Welsh international duo James Davies (foot) and Aaron Shingler (knee) out, along with two of their big summer signings – recent Scotland call-up Blade Thomson (concussion) and South African Uzair Cassiem (shoulder). Will Boyde (ribs) and Josh Macleod (foot) are also out.

Switching to a specialist position of number 8 is a tough ask, a recent example is Ireland’s Grand Slam winning flanker Dan Leavy who struggled playing there for Leinster away against Bath in the Heineken Champions Cup at the beginning of December.

It is the first time that Owens, standing at 1.83m (6ft) and 110kg (17st 4lb), has started a game in that position in his professional career.

The Welsh club are in a difficult run of form too, having lost five matches in a row and with eight defeats in their last 10.

Continue reading below…
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Head coach Wayne Pivac said; “We haven’t been too far off. We had 68% possession and 65% territory against the Blues so we did some good things. It’s more about the things that we can do to make sure we convert that pressure and time in the opposition’s 22 into points. The focus for us this week has been on our pass accuracy and the separation between our ball carriers and runners. There were some positives out there and we’re focusing on that and tightening up in other areas.

“Results are going all over the shop and we’re still one point off the play-offs. Other results have meant there’s everything to play for. We believe that by the end of the season if we can get our top side on the pitch then we’ll compete in this competition. We’ve got to accumulate enough points between now and then. This game against the Dragons on the weekend becomes vital in that quest. We believe we’ll turn it round and the boys are working very hard and haven’t lost sight of the end goal.”

Scarlets: 15. Johnny McNicholl; 14. Ioan Nicholas, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Paul Asquith; 10. Dan Jones, 9. Kieran Hardy; 1. Rob Evans, 2. Ryan Elias, 3. Samson Lee, 4. Josh Helps, 5. David Bulbring, 6. Ed Kennedy, 7. Dan Davis, 8. Ken Owens (capt)

Replacements: 16. Marc Jones, 17. Wyn Jones, 18. Werner Kruger, 19. Tom Price, 20. Tom Phillips, 21. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22. Steff Hughes, 23. Tom Prydie.

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Wales hooker Owens forced into major positional switch for Scarlets