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Wales hooker ready to face All Blacks

NEWS: Wales hooker Ken Owens is ready to return to Test rugby and might face New Zealand this weekend after an 11-month injury battle that left him doubting he would make it back to the international stage.

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Owens has not played for Wales since a Six Nations Grand Slam clash against France early last year.

The 35-year-old suffered a nerve issue in his back during Wales training, putting his outstanding career on hold while he embarked on a lengthy rehabilitation.

The Scarlets front-rower admits there were times when he doubted he would return to the level that earned him 87 Wales caps and five British and Irish Lions Test appearances.

Asked if he had concerns during the recovery process, Owens said: “Yes, a couple of times, but I wanted to see what happened.

“The medical advice from the surgeon was that the nerve could take a bit of time. There were certain times where I thought ‘do we keep going through it’? but thankfully I tried to stay as positive as I could be and got through it.”

Speaking ahead of New Zealand’s visit to Cardiff in the Autumn Nations Series, Owens added: “The last 11 months have been tough, mentally and physically.

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“It has been tough in a number of different ways, not being sure whether I was going to recover or not, but it has been a bit of a refresh as well.

“I decided early on that I would give myself every opportunity to return, because I knew even for life after rugby I would need to do the rehab.

“I threw everything into that and whatever happened, happened. Thankfully, I have got the opportunity to be back among the boys in the Welsh squad.”

Owens made his Wales debut during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and he called upon that experience during a recovery process which culminated in a national squad recall following three games proving his fitness with Scarlets and one with semi-professional outfit Carmarthen Quins.

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Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953, losing 32 successive Tests against the All Blacks, with 24 of those losses being by 15 points or more.

And while Wales return to action following a first victory over the Springboks on South African soil four months ago, the odds are still stacked against them.

New Zealand will be without injured captain Sam Cane and suspended lock Brodie Retallick.

“They are an outstanding team, and they have been for as long as I can remember,” Owens said.

“One thing they won’t be on the weekend is predictable. They will be looking to play with tempo and shift the point of contact.”

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