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Owens: Everything to play for

Ken Owens has underlined Wales' sense of determination to haul themselves back into the RBS 6 Nations title race.

Wales will head to Paris later this week on the back of a 30-22 home defeat against Ireland that ended their Grand Slam and Triple Crown hopes - and Six Nations history is against them making an effective recovery. Since the tournament began in 2000, Wales have lost their opening fixture on nine occasions and never gone on to finish higher than fourth.

However, Scarlets hooker Owens, who provided bench cover for Matthew Rees last Saturday and won his 11th cap, said: "We can't win the Grand Slam, but we can still retain the title, so there is still a lot to play for. Get a result this weekend in Paris and we are back in the championship race."

He added: "It was a terrific opening weekend to the Six Nations. No country is out of it, and no team is running away with it.

"We have to train hard and smart this week and transfer that to the pitch on Saturday night. If we do that we will, hopefully, get the result we want in Paris."

A gripping opening weekend of Six Nations action saw 16 tries scored across three games, highlighted by Italy stunning pre-tournament title favourites France 23-18 in Rome.

"Italy played very well," said Owens. "They stopped France, kept hold of the ball and played at quite a high intensity.

"Perhaps France did have a slight off-day in certain aspects, but Italy stopped them from playing.

"Perhaps we are lacking a bit of confidence here and there. We came off the back of a disappointing autumn series, and it took us 20-30 minutes to get into the match against Ireland.

"Once we started getting into it, you could see the whole side growing and the confidence coming. When we stick to our pattern and game-plan, we can get stuck into teams - it's all about starting well."


From Belfast Telegraph