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Wales call up Ulster hooker as cover for Ken Owens

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Getty Images)

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Ulster have had to look to Ireland to supply them with a Welsh qualified hooker following an injury to frontrow veteran Ken Owens.

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Owens, sidelined by a back problem that will require a scan, has been replaced in the starting line-up set to face New Zealand this weekend by his fellow Scarlets hooker Ryan Elias, with uncapped Cardiff player Kirby Myhill providing bench cover.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: “It’s a big blow to lose any player that you have initially selected. We have selected a certain side and trained a certain way. It is a disruption, but it’s a massive chance for Ryan.

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“Ken has got a back problem. We rested him from training on Tuesday, and we asked him to do a couple of things this morning. We checked him again just after lunch, and the decision was made that he won’t be right and we won’t risk him.”

However, the WRU have opted to add an additional hooker to their Autumn Nations Series squad, confirming a call-up for Ulster’s Bradley Roberts.

A WRU statement reads: “Wales have called on the services of hooker Bradley Roberts, following the announcement of Ken Owens’ back injury. The 25-year-old has made ten appearances for Ulster, most recently as a try scoring replacement against Connacht last weekend.

“South African-born Roberts has represented RGC before moving to Northern Ireland and later joining Ulster for the 2020/21 season.

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“Roberts is eligible to play for Wales through his paternal grandmother, who hailed from Llandysul.”

It’s been a meteoric rise for Roberts, who only signed his first professional contract earlier this year after joining Ulster as injury cover in 2020.

The 5’9, 108kg frontrow joined Ulster from Rainey Old Boys RFC as injury cover. The 25-year–old had been part of the Rainey set-up since 2017 and played a pivotal role in the club’s promotion to Division 2A of the All-Ireland League in the 2018/19 season.

– additional reporting PA

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