OWENS HOP­ING TO END HOODOO

Carmarthen Journal - - Rugby -

KEN Owens and Jonathan Davies are set to lead a host of Scarlets as Wales look to end their Wal­la­bies jinx on Satur­day.

The Bri­tish Li­ons duo look cer­tain to fea­ture in War­ren Gat­land’s side as Wales bid to put a stop to a los­ing run against Aus­tralia that now stands at 13 matches.

Many of those en­coun­ters have been tight, with just one score sep­a­rat­ing the sides at the end, and it could be close again in Satur­day’s clash at the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium.

But book­mak­ers be­lieve Wales have the edge. Gat­land’s team are 4-5 favourites, with the Aussies at 11-8.

As many as half a dozen Scarlets could fea­ture. Leigh Half­penny, who kicked 11 points in the 21-10 de­feat of Scot­land last week and de­liv­ered an ac­com­plished dis­play at full-back, is sure to wear the No. 15 shirt, with Davies, a try scorer against the Scots, likely to part­ner Hadleigh Parkes in mid­field.

Gareth Davies is set to re­sume scrum-half du­ties, with Owens team­ing up with re­gional team-mate Rob Evans in the front row.

For­mer Scarlets Ge­orge North and Liam Wil­liams also look sure to fea­ture on the wings

Owens has said vic­tory over Aus- tralia would be sweet given the ag­o­nis­ing de­feats Wales have suf­fered in pre­vi­ous years.

“The mar­gin of de­feats hasn’t been great,” he said last week. “You look to learn from what has hap­pened in the past. Some peo­ple might say it is a men­tal bar­rier or block.

“Just gen­er­ally they’ve had that lit­tle bit ex­tra and been more clin­i­cal, and we haven’t re­acted to that.

“There’s been one er­ror that’s de­cided a lot of those games and we’ve spo­ken about how clin­i­cal the south­ern hemi­sphere sides are and we are get­ting bet­ter at that.

“It is just clos­ing games out and match­ing their in­ten­sity straight­away.”

Gat­land be­lieves Wales need to im­prove from their vic­tory over Scot­land if they are to trou­ble Aus­tralia, who en­dured a dif­fi­cult sum­mer when they fin­ished third in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship and lost a home series to Ire­land.

He said of past bat­tles with the Wal­la­bies: “There are games where we’ve been lead­ing go­ing into the fi­nal min­utes and we’ve con­ceded.

“If you look at the points dif­fer­ence in those games, there’s noth­ing in it.

“Un­for­tu­nately, from that per­spec­tive, we’ve been un­lucky at times but it would be nice to win and get a re­sult.

“But the more im­por­tant game will be the pool game at the World Cup.

“Be­cause if you win that pool, you po­ten­tially put your­self on the side of the draw that might be a lit­tle bit eas­ier than the other.” CAR­MARTHEN Quins will look to heap more mis­ery on Neath this week­end when the Prin­ci­pal­ity Pre­mier­ship re­sumes af­ter a short break.

The Quins are go­ing nicely in the ta­ble with six wins from nine matches, a re­turn that leaves them in sixth po­si­tion.

And in their last game they pro­duced ar­guably their best per­for­mance of the sea­son to de­feat Brid­gend 44-6. That dis­play left head coach Emyr Phillips purring. He said: “We’ve per­formed re­ally well over the last two weeks and it’s been based on our de­fence, which has been ex­cel­lent.”

Neath, in con­trast, have en­dured a mis­er­able spell and lie bot­tom of the Pre­mier­ship with no wins and just five bonus points to their name.

The seven-time cham­pi­ons are also fac­ing a wind­ing-up pe­ti­tion in court at the end of the month.

Llanelli need a few wins as they look to climb away from rel­e­ga­tion dan­ger at the bot­tom of the ta­ble, while they also need to erase the mem­ory of a nar­row home de­feat to Bed­was at Parc y Scarlets last time out, a game in which the vis­i­tors scored 10 points in the last 10 min­utes.

On Fri­day Paul Fisher’s men head to Cross Keys, a side who are smart­ing from a 73-12 thrash­ing by Pon­typridd last time out.

Llan­dovery are fourth in the ta­ble on 31 points, seven be­hind lead­ers and reign­ing cham­pi­ons Merthyr. The Drovers won at strug­gling Swansea last time out, but look to have a tougher test on their hands this week when they host Ebbw Vale.

The Steel­men are third in the ta­ble and have lost just twice this sea­son, those de­feats com­ing at the hands of top two sides Merthyr and Pon­typridd.

All the matches take place on Fri­day evening, with Wales host­ing Aus­tralia the fol­low­ing day.

Jonathan Davies runs through to score Wales’s sec­ond try dur­ing the vic­tory over Scot­land.

Ken Owens (right) joins forces with Cory Hill to stop Scot­land’s Huw Jones.

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