Six Nations 2019: 'Sheriff' Ken Owens proves nice guys can be winners

Media playback is not supported on this device

Wales learnt from 100-minute France defeat - Owens
Six Nations: France v Wales
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Friday, 1 February Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC One Wales & S4C, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

He's known as the Sheriff of Carmarthen, the most popular "lawman" in the west of Wales.

In Paris on Friday Ken Owens becomes Wales' most-capped hooker, a position more typically populated by cartoon villains intent on bending the law to their own will for their own nefarious ends.

Think England's Brian "Pitbull" Moore, Wales' own Garin Jenkins or Aussie legend Phil Kearns - all clever digs and cheeky winks!

According to Wales coach Warren Gatland, himself a retired hooker so no stranger to the darks arts of the middle of the front row, Owens is just a joy to have in the team.

"The Sheriff of Carmarthen! He's a great bloke to have in the side, you couldn't get a nicer bloke than Ken Owens," said the New Zealander.

"He is a great team man and incredibly well respected and well liked by the coaches and the staff.

"He's playing some great rugby at the moment. His carrying is outstanding, his set-piece…he's throwing well and it will be great for him to have a good year.

"He deserves to have the accolade of being Wales' most-capped hooker. He is an outstanding person on and off the field, a great leader and I can't speak more highly of him."

High praise from a man not renowned for heaping plaudits on players without very good reason, and not afraid to say when he thinks they are not coming up to the mark.

For perspective, Owens will head a list of 50-plus cap winning Welsh hookers which comprises Matthew Rees (60), Jenkins (58) and Huw Bennett (51).

Matthew Rees, Bobby Windsor, Garin Jenkins
Wales hooking stalwarts Matthew Rees, Bobby Windsor and Garin Jenkins

He has more than twice as many Wales appearances than 1970s great Bobby Windsor and nearly 30 more than Bryn Meredith - the multi-British and Irish Lion tourist regarded as probably Wales' greatest number two.

Owens himself is modest and amiable - traits well concealed once he crosses the whitewash.

He might not have a sheriff's silver star on his chest but he wears his heart on his sleeve as anyone will see when the band strikes up the Welsh National Anthem "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau".

"The names of hookers over the years have been some of the greats of Welsh rugby so it is a huge honour," said the 32-year-old.

"To get the opportunity to win one cap is a boyhood dream, to win a 50th cap is unbelievable and to break the hooker record is a huge achievement and honour."

"Over the last two decades you look at Wales being blessed with hookers Richard Hibbard, Robin McBryde, Garin Jenkins and Matthew Rees.

"Some of those names are almost written in folklore in Welsh rugby history.

"To get to 61 and the record is a huge honour. I will look to get a couple more and there is some great young talent coming through.

"It is just a number at the end of the day."

Media playback is not supported on this device

Relive some magic moments from last year's Six Nations

Owens is especially grateful to Matthew Rees, whose record he breaks in Paris as Wales kick-off their 2019 Six Nations campaign.

"He was a huge influence on my career and I learned a lot from him on my early days at the Scarlets.

"Battling for the shirt brought out the best in us and drove us both on.

"That is what rugby is about and we still have that in the squad now with the youngsters coming through in Ryan Elias and Elliot Dee.

"In the middle part of my career I was doing a role which was asked of me off the bench by the coaches and I would take any opportunity to play for Wales.

"At the time Matthew, Scott Baldwin and Richard Hibbard, who was on fire for two years leading up to him going on the Lions, were doing great jobs.

"It is nice to have a decent run in the side starting but I know it can be short lived and Ryan and Elliot are pushing hard."

The Sheriff is in the firing line - and it's the best place to be on match day.

Top Stories