Ken Owens has revealed the “massive worry” when he feared being unable to beat his ankle problem and tour New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions.
The Wales hooker has recovered from the ankle injury that forced him out of the Scarlets’ Guinness PRO12 play-off success – and will now captain the Lions in Wednesday’s Eden Park clash with Auckland Blues.
The Lions will field an entirely-new starting XV for the second match of their 10-game tour, in bidding to sharpen up after a lacklustre 13-7 opening win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.
Owens vowed to drive the Lions towards a performance to do justice to the history and tradition of the famed touring outfit.
Asked if he feared his ankle injury could have ended his tour before it had begun, Owens said: “It was a massive worry.
“I had a nervous 72 hours initially icing my foot, and resting it up.
“And then after that, it’s because of the coaches and physical staff that I was able to rehab and get on the tour.
“The work the physios have done has been incredible. I’m very thankful to be on the tour and to have the chance to put a marker down.
“It’s unbelievable to be asked to be captain. Warren Gatland asked me last night – it was a bit of a shock, but a huge honour. And I didn’t take long to say yes.
“It’s a massive honour for myself, and a challenge I’m relishing for Wednesday night. Hopefully we can put in the massive performance in that the Lions shirt deserves.
“I think there’s some aspects like Warren said we need to improve (from Saturday), but there’s a lot of positives we took and looked to implement, that were there for us to see.
“So we’re going to have to create the momentum game on game and improve going into the Test matches, so it’s 15 new guys starting and an opportunity to put our hands up to raise the standards week on week and game on game.
“Because that’s what we’re going to need to do to beat the All Blacks in three or so weeks’ time.”
Lions head coach Gatland hailed Owens as the “logical choice” to lead the second line-up of the tour, as the quality of opposition rises steeply.
“It was a logical choice for us in terms of looking at the team and the starting XV,” said Gatland of Owens.
“The fact that Ken has captained the Scarlets, and they won the PRO12, and given his international experience and leadership, and the impact he has made on the squad in the last few weeks, it was an easy decision for us to make.”