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Will Owen talks up Doncaster Knights hopes as Griffiths lures World Cup star

Old feelings: Will Owen, centre, playing for Doncaster Knights against his former club Rotherham Titans last season just a few weeks before he suffered a knee injury that eight months later he is still to fully recover from. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Old feelings: Will Owen, centre, playing for Doncaster Knights against his former club Rotherham Titans last season just a few weeks before he suffered a knee injury that eight months later he is still to fully recover from. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
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IT is often the case at season launches that there may be the odd player who really does not want to be there.

Not because they necessarily dislike media duties as such, but mainly because they are injured and out of action.

New signing for Doncaster Knights, Kurt Morath, pictured playing for Tonga against France in the 2011 World Cup. (Picture: AP)

New signing for Doncaster Knights, Kurt Morath, pictured playing for Tonga against France in the 2011 World Cup. (Picture: AP)

Doncaster Knights’ Will Owen could be forgiven for being that man earlier this week when the Greene King IPA Championship was launched at Twickenham.

The talented centre was there representing his South Yorkshire club while all his team-mates were more than 100 miles up the M1 taking part in a training session against Loughborough University.

The new Championship season is, after all, now less than a week away.

Doncaster, who announced the signing of prolific Tonga fly-half Kurt Morath yesterday, start their latest campaign at Cornish Pirates next Sunday.

Pre-season has gone well and we’ve shown some really good signs in the friendlies so far. Everyone is just looking forward getting started properly.

Will Owen

However, Owen will not feature as he continues his recovery from a problematic knee surgery that has kept sidelined him now for eight months.

He was, then, an obvious candidate to go do those media duties at headquarters.

“It’s been a lonely place at times,” the former Rotherham Titans captain told The Yorkshire Post.

“I had the first operation in January and learned after 12 weeks that I’d have to get the surgery re-done as it had not quite gone to plan.

“It’s been 17 weeks now and I’m hoping to be back fully training in the next month, ready to play in the next six to eight weeks.

“I might miss September but should be back early October and want to be as soon as possible.

“That’s the state of play; I’ve played one game since January and am now just rehabbing, doing work in the gym and just trying to make myself useful around the club.

“It gets quite boring otherwise.”

The powerful Owen, who scored nine tries in just 16 starts after switching from Rotherham last summer, knows he cannot rush his return to action even though the season is now edging tantalising close.

“Of course I wouldn’t want to go through all this again,” added the 25-year-old.

“I probably wouldn’t have a job if I did! But it wasn’t anything to do with what I’d done or what I’d done after the op.

“They had to drill into the bone to let the bone marrow out and it was to do with the cartilage and the kneecap and what was missing. It’s a bit complicated but I just have to get on with it.”

Clive Griffiths’ Doncaster side have, in recent years, established themselves as a top-four Championship team but Owen realises the landscape is altering ahead of 2018-19 when London Irish start out as obvious favourites after their relegation from the Premiership.

“Last year we finished seventh which, for Doncaster, was a poor finish,” he said.

“We can look at three or four games where we had it stolen on the last play or something like that and matches could have gone either way.

“And we did have a lot of injuries but those things happen in rugby and we know we have to be better.

“It’s easy to say we want top-four but, with Coventry promoted, we know it’s going to be even more competitive this season.

“Normally you can rely on one or two wins against the team coming up but they have recruited really well so you can’t bank on that this time.

“Coventry will be tough to beat. If we can get a good start to the season, get some momentum early and keep the squad fit I do think we’ll finish top-four.

“But we have to get the first five games out of the way first and then see where we are.

“Pre-season has gone well and we’ve shown some really good signs in the friendlies so far. Everyone is just looking forward getting started properly.”

Doncaster host Premiership Newcastle Falcons this afternoon in their final warm-up game.

They are bolstered by the availability of Tom Calladine who, like Owen, is another former Rotherham captain who left the Titans after their relegation in May.

The flanker was sent-off for punching in last week’s friendly win against Sale FC but has now seen the red card rescinded after a successful appeal and he starts on the bench this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Griffiths is delighted with the capture of Morath, who joins on a two-year deal after featuring in America for Utah Warriors.

Morath, 33, played for the New Zealand Under-21s side in 2005 before pledging his allegiance to Tonga, representing them in the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.

Griffiths admitted: “Kurt is a great signing for us at this stage of proceedings. He brings a wealth of talent and international experience to Castle Park.

“Having played in 33 Tests and a World Cup for Tonga, amassing 340 points, Kurt has the credentials to help take the team forwards next season.”

Morath has also played for San Diego Breakers, Japanese outfit Tokyo Gas and Biarritz Olympique in France.

He said: “I hope the experience I’ve gained playing across the globe will add plenty of value to the team and we can enjoy a successful season.

“I’ve heard the club is very ambitious and very family-orientated which is a great fit for my wife and our girls.”