OWENS HOPING TO END HOODOO
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.