Ken Owens: Hooker says Wales' style change under Wayne Pivac will take time

Ken Owens (left) with Wayne Pivac
Wales hooker Ken Owens (left) also worked with head coach Wayne Pivac at Scarlets
Autumn Nations Cup: Fifth-place play-off - Wales v Italy
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli Date: Saturday, 5 December Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru; watch on S4C and follow live text on the BBC Sport website and app.

Wales need more time to adapt to head coach Wayne Pivac's attempted change in style, says hooker Ken Owens.

Having succeeded Warren Gatland - whose pragmatic, more physical approach yielded three Grand Slams - Pivac has pledged to develop Wales in attack.

But he has endured a torrid start to his tenure, losing seven of his nine Tests in charge.

Pivac had earned praise for the attacking verve with which his former Scarlets side played.

Asked if that brand of rugby can work at international level, Scarlets hooker Owens told the BBC Rugby Union Weekly podcast: "It can, but the way we played at the Scarlets, we relied on really quick ball and playing off a lot of turnovers as well.

"The years we were successful we had Tadhg Beirne, James Davies and John Barclay ruling the roost at the contact area, so we scored a lot off turnover ball.

"Probably what you get from international rugby is how competitive the contact area is contested, both sides of the ball it's very difficult to get that speed of ball consistently.

"It's going to take a little bit of time to adapt the Scarlet way, if you want to call it that, or what we played with at the Scarlets, for it to work at Test rugby."

Wales' problems under Pivac have been numerous: directionless in attack, struggling to keep possession, outplayed at the breakdown and a mess at set-pieces.

While they have conceded several penalties at scrums, the line-out has arguably been more of a concern.

Wales' line-out success rate from their own throws this autumn has fallen to 85%, 75%, 69%, 73% and 73% in each match, with 17 line-outs lost in five matches.

Owens would usually be throwing into those line-outs, but his shoulder injury means he has not played for Wales this season.

"It's probably been the combination that the set-piece hasn't been consistent at all, which is a huge talking point in Wales," he said.

"There has been a little bit of change, with some boys coming in and out and not quite getting that consistency.

"It's obviously been frustrating for me to be out injured, but I'm not getting any younger either so it's a great opportunity for the young boys to get stuck in and put their hands up.

"They've done really well, all three of them [hookers Ryan Elias, Elliot Dee and Sam Parry] when they've played."

Wales have given debuts to several players during the Autumn Nations Cup as they aim to build strength in depth.

As well as hooker Parry, back-rowers James Botham and Shane Lewis-Hughes, wing Louis Rees-Zammit and centre Johnny Williams are among those to have made their first appearances for Wales.

"I thought Johnny Williams was absolutely outstanding," Owens said of Saturday's loss to England.

"He's been brilliant with us down at the Scarlets and it was great to see him have an opportunity. He was outstanding. Defensively, he was great, he carried well, and took his try really well.

"Seeing Louis Rees-Zammit getting a run of games as well, when he got the ball he did look sharp, put a lot of work in off the ball as well.

"I just think, in one way it hasn't been great, obviously results-wise, but I think in this World Cup cycle, which is what it is now, new coaches coming in, we have blooded some new players and had a look at players.

"One of the ultimate tests is England, especially from a forwards point of view, and some boys have put their hand up and showed that they can play at this level.

"It will take a little bit more time for them to get the experience and probably get really confident at this level, but there was enough there to suggest it's looking good going forward."

Wales host Italy at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday with fifth place in the Autumn Nations Cup at stake.

Owens had surgery on his shoulder injury in October, prompting fears he might miss the 2021 Six Nations.

On his chances of being fit in time for that tournament, Owens said: "Hopefully I'll get a couple of games in and hopefully my form will still be there, and we'll take it from there."


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