Owens proves his mettle on the long road back to fitness – The Irish Times

Ken Owens appears to be like set to make a Wales return on Saturday after an 11-month damage battle that severely examined his psychological and bodily power.

The 35-year-old Scarlets hooker has not represented his nation since a Six Nations Grand Slam conflict towards France early final yr.

A nerve challenge in his again, which he suffered throughout Wales coaching two days earlier than going through 2021 Autumn Nations Series opponents New Zealand, put an excellent profession on maintain.

And Owens admits there have been “a few occasions” when he doubted he would return to the highest degree that has delivered 87 Wales caps and 5 British and Irish Lions Test appearances.

“The final 11 months have been powerful, mentally and bodily,” Owens mentioned, forward of the All Blacks’ newest Cardiff go to.

“It has been powerful in quite a lot of alternative ways, not being certain whether or not I used to be going to get well or not, nevertheless it has been a little bit of a refresh as effectively.

“I made a decision early on that I might give myself each alternative to return, as a result of I knew even for all times after rugby I would wish to do the rehab.

“I threw every thing into that and no matter occurred, occurred. Thankfully, I’ve received the chance to be again among the many boys within the Welsh squad.”

Asked if any doubts surfaced throughout the restoration course of, he added: “Yes, a few occasions, however I needed to see what occurred.

“The medical recommendation from the surgeon was that the nerve might take a little bit of time. There had been sure occasions the place I believed ‘can we maintain going by it’? however fortunately I attempted to remain as optimistic as I might be and received by it.”

Owens made his Wales debut throughout the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and he referred to as upon that have throughout a restoration course of which culminated in a nationwide squad recall following three Scarlets comeback video games.

“You know what that you must do to make yourself familiar,” he mentioned. “You are usually not shocked by the depth of Test rugby, as a result of that’s one factor expertise offers you – what’s coming.

“I feel the largest factor was in all probability if I had made the choice [to retire] would I remorse it in years to return if I had gone too quickly?

“If I had come again, I might have identified if I used to be in a position to compete at this degree or not. I feel it was ensuring I had achieved every thing in my energy to return again.

“You in all probability don’t recognize issues as a lot till it’s taken away from you. I needed to show to myself that I might do it.

“This is step one, getting again within the squad. Hopefully, issues go effectively and I show myself and that I’m nonetheless adequate to drag on the three feathers.”

Wales haven’t overwhelmed New Zealand since 1953, dropping 32 successive Tests towards the All Blacks, with 24 of these losses being by 15 factors or extra.

And whereas Wales return to motion following a primary victory over the Springboks on South African soil 4 months in the past, the percentages are nonetheless stacked towards them.

They have additionally had quite a lot of damage points to cope with, though assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys delivered a optimistic replace forward of coaching on Tuesday.

“There is no-one giving us huge concern,” Humphreys mentioned. “They are getting there. You can solely take a look at that once we go fairly bodily.”

New Zealand will likely be with out injured captain Sam Cane and suspended lock Brodie Retallick, however Owens added: “They are an excellent staff, and so they have been for so long as I can bear in mind.

“One factor they received’t be on the weekend is predictable. They will likely be trying to play with tempo and shift the purpose of contact.”

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