Six Nations 2017: Wales' Ken Owens backs delay to relegation plan

Ken Owens in action for Wales against the New Zealand All Blacks
Ken Owens made his debut for Wales against Namibia in 2011
Six Nations: Italy v Wales
Date: Sunday, 5 February Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary

Wales hooker Ken Owens has backed the decision not to introduce relegation from the Six Nations.

Italy, Wales' first opponent in the 2017 tournament, have finished bottom of the table 11 times, and Georgia and Romania have been pushing to be included in the top tier.

But the 30-year-old, set to win his 46th cap in Rome, believes that would be a premature move.

"I think it's a debate to be had in a couple of years time," he said.

Italy's captain and talisman Sergio Parisse reacted angrily when the suggestion was put to him during the 2016 tournament.

And Six Nations chief executive John Feehan has said relegation will not be introduced in the short to medium term and dismissed criticism of Italy as unfair.

Owens expects the Azzuri to pose a serious challenge in Rome, where Wales have lost twice and believes that if relegation is eventually introduced, the teams and players will deal with the issue.

"I don't think any team goes into the competition to finish bottom," he said.

"If [relegation] comes, it comes and the focus wouldn't change because no side goes into the Six Nations wanting to win the wooden spoon."

Italy coach Conor O'Shea has made five changes from the team which lost against Tonga in November for the game against Wales.

It is also the first time Wales have faced the Italians since the appointment of their new coaching team.

"It's a tough away game, especially Italy first up," he added.

"They'll be wanting to build on a good autumn campaign after beating South Africa and they'll have been disappointed losing the last game against Tonga.

"But they've had time now with Conor O'Shea, Mike Catt and Brendan Venter in camp.

"We know hard it's going to be out there and it's all about getting a good performance first up."

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