British & Irish Lions

Lions' Owens hails 'unbelievable' Furlong ahead of series decider

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Ken Owens. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Ken Owens. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Veteran Wales hooker Ken Owens on Thursday lauded the class of prop Tadhg Furlong and calmness of head coach Warren Gatland as he readies for his first British & Irish Lions Test start.

Owens and Scarlets team-mate and loosehead Wyn Jones have replaced Luke Cowan-Dickie and Mako Vunipola in the run-on team for the series-deciding third Test against South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday.

Those changes are among six to the side that began the second Test against the Springboks, who recovered from a five-point first Test loss to triumph 27-9 last weekend.

Owens told an online news conference Ireland stalwart Furling has raised his game to dizzying heights since they both toured New Zealand with the Lions four years ago.

"Tadhg is an absolutely world-class front-row forward," said Owens. "Scrummaging-wise, he knows exactly what he wants from you as a hooker and what he needs to do.

"The work he does off the field is unbelievable, the detail he goes into to make sure his scrummaging is spot on and what he expects of his hooker, loosehead and flanker.

"That rubs off on you and leaves you in no doubt that he is the anchor of the scrum. I think he has risen many levels from four years ago.

"What he has added to his game is not just superior scrummaging, but knowledge about mauling, the contact area, and ball carrying.

"Tadhg is definitely an all-round player now and not just a scrummager. He is a lot more experienced and has added a great deal to his game."

Owens, who has been a professional for 15 years, also hailed New Zealand-born Gatland two days before the series decider behind closed doors at Cape Town Stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Warren is very calm, he knows how to get the best out of the players with a short conversation," said the front rower.

"He steps in when he needs to, prompts boys when he needs to, and is just very calm and knows how to get the best out of each individual. He has been great this week.

"You can sense the confidence and experience he brings by the way he enters team meetings and talks," Owens said.

Kick-off is at 18:00 on Saturday.

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Damian Willemse

British & Irish Lions

15 Liam Williams (Wales), 14 Josh Adams (Wales), 13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 12 Bundee Aki (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Ken Owens (Wales), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 17 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Adam Beard (Wales), 20 Sam Simmonds (England), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Finn Russell (Scotland), 23 Elliot Daly (England)

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