Wales captain Ken Owens said on Friday his team desperately need to beat England in the Six Nations this weekend to restore pride in the Welsh jersey after turbulent times that saw a player strike averted midweek.
The Welsh have endured their worst start to a Six Nations since 2007 with opening losses to Ireland (34-10) and Scotland (35-7).
They were compounded by players threatening to strike over contractual issues as they took on the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) head-on before this Saturday’s game.
Owens, as skipper, was instrumental in the negotiations that saw Welsh rugby bosses cut to 25 from 60 the number of Test caps needed for a player based with a club outside Wales to play internationally.
The WRU also gave the green light to player representation at meetings and the introduction of a fixed contract.
“We need a win to get pride back in the shirt after two defeats,” Owens said, adding the team had been “galvanised” by the disruption he said had left Wales the “laughing stock” of world rugby.
“It has been a horrendous two weeks, but we can only focus on the rugby now, moving forward. That’s what we need to focus on, getting a result on Saturday to put some pride back into the shirt.
“It’s trying to finish this saga on a positive.”
Owens, reiterating the need for “a sustainable future for the game in Wales”, said the stand-off with the WRU had been “a shame”. “But what is done is done, what has gone has gone.
“We have made a stand, we have made people stand up and take notice and showed the strength we have as a playing group.”
Turning to England, who opened their Six Nations with a 29-23 defeat by Scotland before rebounding with a 31-14 victory over Italy, Owens said they would be no pushover.
“They are a quality side, in a bit of transition the same as us, new coaching staff, some new players coming in,” the Scarlets hooker said.
“They have gone back to being very set-piece orientated, as you would expect because that is a massive strength of English rugby… They will be coming at us up front on Saturday and it is up to us to front up and match that challenge head on.”