Thursday 19 July 2018

Expect Wales to get even better, warns Owens

Wales 34 Scotland 7

Wales' Aaron Shingler of Wales wins the line-out ball. Photo: Getty Images
Wales' Aaron Shingler of Wales wins the line-out ball. Photo: Getty Images

Ken Owens says Wales are "pretty happy" after making their most emphatic start to a Six Nations campaign since the tournament began 18 years ago.

While significant challenges await during the next three weeks - England at Twickenham, followed by Ireland in Dublin a fortnight later - Wales' demolition job on Scotland has set them up for a potential title tilt.

Wales' Steff Evan dives over for a try. Photo: Getty Images
Wales' Steff Evan dives over for a try. Photo: Getty Images

It was Wales' second-biggest victory over the Scots in 135 years, and their first Six Nations bonus-point win after Leigh Halfpenny's try double and touchdowns for scrum-half Gareth Davies and wing Steff Evans.

Full-back Halfpenny's 24-point haul, meanwhile, saw him break the record he previously held with Neil Jenkins for most points by a Wales player against Scotland in the Six Nations.

All roads now lead to Twickenham for Wales in five days, with head coach Warren Gatland's selection options set to be boosted by the availability after injury of George North, Liam Williams and Hallam Amos.

Whether Gatland makes any changes, though, is another matter after Wales tore the Scots to shreds despite being without injured senior personnel like Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb.

Scotland's Tommy Seymour is brought down by Wales' Owen Watkin. Photo: Getty Images
Scotland's Tommy Seymour is brought down by Wales' Owen Watkin. Photo: Getty Images

It was a game when lock Cory Hill, destructive flankers Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi and workaholic wing Evans came to the fore, with a starting XV containing 10 Scarlets mirroring the in-form Welsh region's thrilling adventurous style.

"We have been criticised for not scoring tries, for not being able to score, and I think we delivered on that," hooker Owens said.

"If we tidy a few things up, we will get better by next week.

"Perhaps we tried one too many offloads at times. We don't want to discourage the boys from doing that, but sometimes there is that realisation that if we hold it for that extra phase, you can get them on the next one.

Wales' Rhys Patchell runs at the Scotland defence. Photo: Getty Images
Wales' Rhys Patchell runs at the Scotland defence. Photo: Getty Images

"But the ambition was great, and first game up, we are pretty happy. We have always been slow starters, so it is not a bad start for us."

Wales have beaten England three times at Twickenham during Gatland's 10-year reign - they did not manage it once in the 20 years prior to his appointment - so they will not be daunted by facing the title holders away from home.

"We have done well at Twickenham over the years," Owens added. "We finished the game really strongly there two years ago and could have snuck the result, and the same in Cardiff last year, when they were clinical and got an outstanding try at the end to win it.

"We will be confident going there, but they will be favourites being at home and winners of the last two Six Nations titles. We have just got to worry about ourselves and delivering another performance.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend. Photo: Getty Images
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend. Photo: Getty Images

"Of course there will be a fear factor because they have won the tournament for the last two years and have got a big unbeaten record and are favourites for the title.

"But we know we are confident in our own ability, and if we deliver that we will be right in the mix."

Irish Independent

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