Rugby Union

Ken Owens tells Wales to play for pride as they prepare for Italy finale

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Football News

Ken Owens wants Wales to "put some pride back in the shirt" when they conclude their RBS 6 Nations campaign against Italy in Cardiff next Saturday.

Wales should encounter little trouble dismissing a poor Italian team, but mental scarring from a Twickenham horror-show at the hands of Six Nations champions-elect England could take some time to heal.

Second-half substitute Owens was among the few individual success stories of an overall Wales performance that easily ranks among their worst since Warren Gatland was appointed head coach eight years ago.

Although late converted tries by George North and Taulupe Faletau after England prop Dan Cole had been sin-binned meant the final losing margin was just four points at 25-21, it could not remotely mask the alarming level of lethargy that had gone before.

"We came to Twickenham confident we could get a victory and possibly be playing for a championship (title) next weekend," Scarlets hooker Owens said.

"I am not sure what happened in the first hour, but they possibly won the battle of the gain-line offensively and defensively, which is where the game is won and lost these days.

"Warren said at half-time we needed to sort it out, and it was only the players that could do that. We needed to get some line speed and put them under pressure, which we managed to do in the second-half, but it was too little, too late.

"It is not like us to miss 19 tackles in the first-half. We only missed 19 tackles in the whole (2015) World Cup. We had an off-day, and good teams like England punish you."

It was Wales' first Six Nations away defeat since they were beaten by England two years ago, but the manner of their loss - outclassed behind the scrum and outmuscled up-front - proved startling.

Owens added: "We have to turn up next week and play Italy and put some pride back in the shirt. We will work hard as a squad like we always do, and finish this championship on a high.

"I can't put my finger on it, and it was very uncharacteristic of us. We missed 19 tackles. Our defence is our go-to when we are under pressure, and we build our game from that.

"We will have to analyse that and be honest with each other.

"We did well to get within a score and show some resolve and character and heart, but overall in the 80 minutes they were a better team by a long way."

Wales captain Sam Warburton, who was carried off midway through the second-half, will follow return to play protocols after being concussed.

And Gatland could ponder a number of changes for Italy, which is Wales' final game before another Twickenham appointment with England on May 29, followed by a three-Test New Zealand tour in June.

Scott Baldwin, who was replaced by Owens after 54 minutes at Twickenham, said: "Nineteen missed tackles is unheard of for Wales.

"The good thing about this group is that we are honest. We will learn from this. I won't have any bones about being told what I did wrong.

"We need to be a lot better defensively next week, because Italy have some real threats out wide.

"We want to put on a real show next week. We have a point to prove. That is something we will take on board, and if there is pressure from outside and from the coaches, then we will react to that."

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