KEN OWENS, the captain of Wales’ rugby team during the Six Nations, has been released from the country’s World Cup squad, marking his absence from a fourth World Cup tournament later this year. The 36-year-old hooker, who has earned 91 caps since his debut in 2011 and participated in the Lions tours in 2017 and 2021, is the latest player to withdraw from Warren Gatland’s 54-man training squad. Previous retirements from Test rugby by Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, and Rhys Webb, along with the release of Rhys Carre due to not meeting individual targets and Cory Hill’s decision to play in Japan, have further impacted the squad.
As a replacement, Sam Parry has been called up to the Welsh squad. Owens, along with his Scarlets teammate Josh Macleod and Cardiff Rugby’s Will Davies-King, has been released due to injury concerns.
Expressing his disappointment at the developments, Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach, acknowledged the efforts and dedication shown by the players in the team’s initial training camps. Gatland revealed that the players had faced various mental and physical challenges during these camps.
Commenting on the specific injuries that led to the release of Owens, Macleod, and Davies-King, Gatland explained, “Ken has a back issue that requires some time off for recovery. Josh sustained his injury while playing for his club, and despite our hopes of managing it, a specialist assessment revealed it was not feasible. Will initially suffered a foot injury during training with us, which we were managing, but unfortunately, it was aggravated, leading to his release.”
Gatland remained optimistic about the injured players’ availability for future matches, stating, “All three are hoping to be available later in the year should we need an injury replacement at any point.”
Looking ahead, Gatland expressed his eagerness to regroup the squad for further training in Wales before their trip to Switzerland. He highlighted the team’s solid preparation in Wales thus far and their plans to benefit from training at altitude in Fiesch. Moreover, Gatland mentioned that Owen Williams and Alex Cuthbert would not be traveling to Switzerland due to personal reasons, but they were expected to attend the training camp in Turkey. Taulupe Faletau, managing a calf injury, would join the team in Switzerland for the second week of the training camp to aid with family responsibilities following the birth of his third child.
It’s worth noting that Owens previously faced a nerve issue in his back, which kept him out of the game for 11 months a couple of years ago, leading to concerns about the continuation of his career.