KEN Owens insists Wales have turned some heads in the Six Nations and are still heading in the right direction despite back-to-back defeats.

The tournament started with a bang when Scotland were hammering in Cardiff but Warren Gatland's men have slipped out of title contention after suffering on the road.

Losses to England at Twickenham and Ireland at the Aviva Stadium leave them playing for pride against Italy and France at Principality Stadium.

But with the countdown to next year's World Cup intensifying, Lions front rower Owens wants Wales to play some expansive rugby before signing off until the summer tour to Argentina.

"We've got two games left and we have just got to go into them positively. There are 10 points up for grabs, and we've just got to try and get them and keep playing positive rugby," said the Scarlets captain.

"I think we've been pretty good this campaign. Everyone has written us off, and we've turned some heads.

"We have been really positive. We weren't at our best and Ireland probably were tactically a lot better than us and played the territorial battle. We will learn from that.

"When we keep hold of the ball, we create chances. We had three opportunities to score, and we took three chances."

Warren Gatland will now tinker with his side for the Azzurri – with Dragons hooker Elliot Dee in the mix for a first Test start – and Owens believes the increasing squad depth gives reason for optimism.

"I wouldn't say it was a step back," he said. "We are going in the right direction, we are still blooding new players and we had some boys back from injury, which is great.

"Ireland are a great side, and if you are indisciplined against them, they punish you, and that's what they did.

"There are plenty of positives, but we need to tidy up that discipline issue we probably had out there.

"We conceded nine penalties in the first-half, and we conceded two against England and a handful against Scotland.

"It does frustrate your game, it stops your momentum and we have just got to be a little more accurate.

"Our discipline cost us, giving them some easy outs and giving them territory in our half, which they took full advantage of. We can't have had more than 20 per cent possession and territory in that first-half.

"It is frustrating that we put ourselves under pressure at times. We gave away nine penalties in the first-half, which is probably more than we have conceded all campaign.

"They didn't throw anything at us that we didn't really expect, but we put ourselves under pressure and they executed.

"Second-half, they did something similar, and then the boys showed huge character in the last 10 minutes to keep playing, and we almost snuck a result."

After being underdogs against England and Ireland, Wales must now cope with the expectation of bagging a five-point haul in a comprehensive success against Italy.

Owens insists Conor O'Shea's side deserve more respect.

"They've been dangerous, to be fair to them. They've scored tries, so they are not going to be a walkover," he insisted.

"We are going to have to be at the top of our game. We can't turn up and just think we are going to roll over them and get five points. We need to really work hard and play smart rugby."