Ireland’s Rory Best still at top of his game, says Wales’ Ken Owens

Ireland captain Rory Best is “a great player” who will undoubtedly make life difficult for Wales in Dublin on Saturday, says hooker Ken Owens.

Ireland top the standings ahead of this weekend’s Six Nations showdown at the Aviva Stadium, and rival front-row forwards Owens and Best – colleagues on last summer’s British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand – are set to be key performers.

Victory for Wales would end Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes and keep alive their own title chances, while an Irish win would increase the likelihood of a championship showdown against England at Twickenham on March 17.

“I’ve played against Rory a lot over the years, and he is a quality player,” Owens said. “He has won a lot of Test caps, he’s played more than 200 times for Ulster and he’s been a mainstay of the Irish pack as a quality operator.

“It’s always a tough game playing against him because he is that good. He deserves praise for his durability, and he has adapted to stay at the top of the game for so long.

“It is a huge credit to him, and we’ve always got on well and had that mutual respect even before the Lions tour.

“On the tour, seeing how he conducted himself and led that midweek team in the last couple of weeks showed what a player he is. He’s a great player.”

Owens and his Scarlets team-mates in the Wales squad have fond recent memories of the Aviva Stadium, given that the Llanelli-based region beat Munster 46-22 there to be crowned PRO12 champions last season a week after defeating Leinster, also in Dublin.

The 31-year-old missed both games because of injury, but he said: “I was disappointed to miss the final, and the way we won it so convincingly was massive for us. I hope we get another good day there in a Wales jersey, because we have had some success there in the last couple of years.”