Autumn Nations Series: Ken Owens says Wales must show belief against New Zealand amid key absences

Hooker Ken Owens says belief will be pivotal for a depleted Wales side when they open their Autumn Nations Series campaign against New Zealand in Cardiff on Saturday.

Wayne Pivac’s side are unable to call upon several players through injury, including George North, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi, along with those who are English-based as the game against the three-time world champions falls outside World Rugby’s official Test window.

Owens, 34, has been on the losing side against the All Blacks in six previous matches for his country, with Wales’ last victory back in 1953.

“New Zealand are a quality side, but so are we. When you’re playing a team like them, you have to believe you can get the win,” he said.

“It’s about being in the game for 80 minutes and not switching off. You have to be on the money because they enjoy turnover ball and they attack from anywhere.

“Injuries happen in rugby and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. The way to look at it is in a positive way and it’s an opportunity for players to put their hands up.

“It’s disappointing to have boys with injuries and there is obviously quality missing, but we can’t control that. The only thing we can focus on as players is to be excited by the challenge.”

Scarlets forward Owens, who became a two-time British & Irish Lions tourist against South Africa in the summer, started all five games of Wales’ Six Nations-winning campaign this year.

Wales were denied the Grand Slam after a classic encounter that saw France edge home 32-30 in injury time at the Stade de France in March.

“We’re looking forward to getting out there and we’re not turning up this autumn just to make up the numbers. We’re looking for and need results,” added Owens, who has won 82 Wales caps.

“We need to get back on the horse after the Six Nations. We were disappointed to lose the last game to France, but it’s all about getting the performance right and winning rugby matches.”

The All Blacks match will be the first to be played in front of a sold-out Principality Stadium for the first time since March 2020, before Pivac’s side host South Africa, Fiji and Australia in consecutive weekends.

Owens, who missed the two-Test series defeat against Argentina and victory over Canada in the summer, added: “Missing out on the crowd in the Six Nations was a shock to me because I hadn’t played a lot of rugby with no crowd having been injured last autumn.

“It was a shock playing Test rugby with no crowd in Cardiff, so I’m just looking forward to having that opportunity with 75,000 people at Principality Stadium.”

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New Zealand saw their 10-match winning streak ended by South Africa in the final game of the Rugby Championship.

World No 2 side New Zealand, who won the Rugby Championship, beat USA 104-14 on Saturday in Washington and also face Italy, Ireland and France during their autumn campaign.


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