The fire is back for Ken Owens after long lay-off
Being sidelined for 11 months gave Ken Owens the opportunity to spend some time thinking about what life after rugby will look like for him.
But it also re-kindled his fire for playing and that’s been evident from the way he has hit the ground running since returning from a long lay-off with a nerve issue in his back.
He immediately impressed as he resumed duties with the Scarlets in the BKT United Rugby Championship during October and was then one of Wales’ stand-out performers in a difficult autumn international campaign.
With his 36th birthday coming up in January, the 86-cap hooker will be aware he is in the twilight of his career, so wisely used his time out of the game to mull over future options.
But, for now, there’s still plenty of gas left in the tank and he’s relishing being back in the thick of it, with an EPCR Challenge Cup clash at home to French club Bayonne coming up on Sunday.
Reflecting on his injury lay-off, he said: “It was long, but I was resigned to how serious it was and I was happy to be patient with it. I accepted the fact it was going to take its time and it would be right when it’s right.
“I just enjoyed the family time and sticking my head into some different stuff. It was a case of meeting new people, gaining experience in different things and just seeing what I actually enjoy, so when the day does come when I finish rugby I’m not needing to rush into something. That time off did give me an opportunity to find what I’d like to do.
“There are a couple of different things in the pipeline. I managed to meet a lot of good people who have offered their help. I will just see what happens when that day does come. I will park that for a bit now and concentrate on rugby because both at national and regional level we need some wins.
“The time off allowed me the chance to re-find that fire again and set some new goals that I would like to achieve. I am really enjoying being back out there again. Thankfully, I’ve had no issues related to the injury since I’ve been back playing.”
Turning to the action coming up, there’s a new look to the European cup competitions this season, with South African sides on board, as demonstrated by the Scarlets’ second group fixture being “away” to the Toyota Cheetahs, from Bloemfontein, a match that will actually be played in the Italian city of Parma, at the home of URC side Zebre.
The Challenge Cup also features the Emirates Lions, while the Vodacom Bulls, the DHL Stormers and the Cell C Sharks are in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Giving his thoughts on this development, Owens said: “With South Africa being aligned at club level through the BKT United Rugby Championship, it probably was a natural progression. Rugby needs to expand its horizons, exploring different territories and different ways of doing stuff.
“I am sure it will be a hit. For all the other sides, it’s something different for them to experience, in terms of going to South Africa and vice versa. I am sure it will be a positive. It opens up new commercial markets and broadcast rights and all the rest that goes with it.
“Rugby needs to grow and do things differently. You can be a bit of a traditionalist, but you need to think outside of the box to grow the game. For us, it’s a good opportunity to re-set with a new competition to gain a bit of confidence and momentum leading into the BKT URC Christmas derbies.”
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