British and Irish Lions 2017: Ken Owens 'shocked' to be named captain after fearing his tour was over

Owens will lead the Lions against Auckland on Wednesday in the absence of Sam Warburton

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The Independent Online

Ken Owens was probably the most shocked man in Auckland on Monday when he was named captain of the British and Irish Lions for their match against the Blues on Wednesday night, just weeks after fearing his tour of New Zealand was over before it started.

Having made 15 changes to his starting line-up that sees Sam Warburton, Rory Best, Alun Wyn Jones and Greig Laidlaw unavailable to lead the side, head coach Warren Gatland turned to Wales hooker Owens to skipper the Lions in their second tour match.

But it could have been so different for Owens, with the 30-year-old missing the end of the season through an ankle injury that not only kept him out of the Scarlets momentous Pro12 final victory, but also facing a race to be fit for the Lions tour.

Lions tour diary: Day six

“I was a bit worried having done the scans, speaking to the specialist,” Owens said. “I then spoke to the doctor and physio afterwards who said ‘there’s nothing we can do now, just do everything you can to get yourself fit and right for the trip’.

“It was literally three days of icing and feet up and thankfully it was good enough to go to the second camp in Dublin. Once I got to Ireland, I was a lot more confident of making the trip.”

The appointment of Owens as captain in Warburton’s absence can help make up for the fact that he missed the last three matches of the season for the Scarlets, in which the side beat both Leinster and Munster in the play-offs to lift the Pro12 title against the odds.

The Scarlets captain now gets to lead out the Lions, something he was keen to point out that he now had a responsibility to live up to the history of the shirt.

“Last night before dinner [Gatland] asked me if I’d captain the side,” Owens added. “Massive shock – obviously my first tour, my first game for the Loins, and look at the experience in the side. I am really proud to be given this opportunity.”

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Owens will captain the Lions in his first appearance for them (Getty)

Owens added: “I think a [Lions captain is] a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and leads by his actions on the field. Some are a lot better speakers than others, they make a lot more speeches and things like that, things that go down in history, but generally I think every Lions captain has been right in the thick of the action and leading by his actions on the field. Hopefully I can do that justice on Wednesday night.

“Obviously there’s slightly more pressure because of the enormity of playing for the Lions, but I don’t think you can generally try and change the way you play or the way you lead or captain the side by what side it is. I think you’ve got to try and adapt where you need to but try be yourself and play and lead and speak the way you would if you were back with your club or with your country. I think you shouldn’t change your philosophy as a player too much.”

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