The British and Irish Lions hooker captained Wales in the Six Nations


Wales have been handed a big blow ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup after hooker and Rugby World columnist Ken Owens failed to recover from a back injury.

The 36-year-old captained his country in this year’s Six Nations but will not go to France this autumn – which could spell the end of his international career after earning 91 caps.

Ospreys hooker Sam Parry, 31, has been called up in place of Owens.

It’s a further blow to Warren Gatland’s World Cup hopes of progressing from Pool C, which contains Australia, Fiji and Georgia.

Read more: Wales Rugby World Cup squad

Experienced stars Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb previously announced their retirements, while centre Joe Hawkins ruled himself out of selection by signing for Exeter Chiefs and Cory Hill also ended his World Cup hopes by heading to Japan.

“Ken has a niggle in his back which he needs some time out to sort,” Gatland said.

“He’s not going to be available for the World Cup squad. He might need an operation and, if he recovers from that and gets himself right on the pitch, he may be available if we pick up injuries during the World Cup.”

Owns was a British and Irish Lion in both the 2017 and 2021 tours and has been his country’s first choice hooker for seven years.

“Ken is gutted but he’s an incredibly positive person,” Gatland told the BBC.

“He actually considers himself lucky for getting an extra 18 months that he didn’t think he would get after the last back injury.

“He understands that at his age, his body doesn’t recover as quickly now but we’ve got some strong competition in that position.”

Gatland and his Wales squad are heading to the Alpine resort of Fiesch in Switzerland on 3 July. Taulupe Faletau will miss the first week with a calf injury while Alex Cuthbert and Owen Williams will not travel for ‘personal reasons’.

Gatland will further reduce his squad after the two-week camp ahead of another week of preparation that will take place later in July in Turkey.

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