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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 16 December, 2019

Eddie Jones urges England to keep cool in Welsh 'rip off heads' cauldron

The England boss wants his side to be ‘calm but tough’ in Cardiff.

England head coach Eddie Jones during a training session at Pennyhill Park this week.
England head coach Eddie Jones during a training session at Pennyhill Park this week.
Image: Adam Davy

WALES AND ENGLAND will both put their Grand Slam ambitions on the line when they meet for a sold-out Six Nations clash at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Both sides, the only unbeaten teams in the tournament, have won their opening two matches of this Six Nations.

Yet for Wales, whatever England’s form, the fixture has long been a chance to gain a measure of revenge for all the many political, cultural and economic wrongs they feel have been done to them by their border rivals.

It was a sentiment summed up in a speech by Wales captain Phil Bennett shortly before the 1977 edition in Cardiff where the outstanding fly-half concluded by telling his side: “We’ve been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English — and that’s who you are playing this afternoon.”

Wales won that match 14-9.

This week the Welsh squad have watched a play about the life of the fiercely patriotic Wales centre Ray Gravell, a team-mate of Bennett’s.

What effect it had on a side where wing George North and centre Jonathan Davies were born in England, while fellow backs Gareth Anscombe and Hadleigh Parkes hail from New Zealand — as does coach Warren Gatland — remains to be seen. 

‘Ready to rip off heads’

But Eddie Jones, an Australian in charge of an England team featuring Samoa-born centre Manu Tuilagi and the Sydney-born but Wales-raised son of a former Tonga captain in No 8 Billy Vunipola, had no doubt about Wales’ mood.    

“They (Wales) have been saying they’re ready to rip off heads. 

“They watched a play about Ray Gravell — I remember watching him play — a really good player. 

“So they’re full of emotions and they’ll bring that to the field and we know Wales teams at home want to come out hard.” 

But former Australia and Japan coach Jones, however, was confident in how England would approach the game.

“Just be calm but at the same time tough and have a real steel about us. That’s what I want to see. 

“And I know we’re going to get it, I can see it in the players’ eyes now.”

Wales are on an 11-match unbeaten run, with just one more win required to break their all-time record set from 1907-1910.

Jones, however, has won all four of his matches against Wales since taking over as England coach after the 2015 World Cup.

Wing Jack Nowell and prop Ben Moon replace the injured Chris Ashton and prop Mako Vunipola respectively in the only two changes to the England starting side that thrashed France 44-8 last time out. 

England have scored tries inside the first three minutes of their last five Tests, with wing Jonny May grabbing 12 in his last 12 internationals.

But Wales, led again by veteran second row Alun Wyn Jones, will back their defence to put more pressure on England captain and fly-half Owen Farrell, who led a brilliant tactical kicking display that repeatedly caused problems for a callow France side at Twickenham.

“It’s a massive challenge playing against an England team that is playing really well and with a lot of confidence and we’ve got to make it difficult for them,” said Gatland, in his final Six Nations campaign as Wales coach before he stands down after this year’s World Cup in Japan.

Never reluctant to make big decisions, Gatland has opted for Anscobme over the benched Dan Biggar at fly-half.

Anscombe, the son of a Cardiff-born mother, is seen as the more attacking player, while Biggar, passed fit despite going off early with a heavily strapped leg for English club Northampton last weekend, is viewed as the superior defensive stand-off and goalkicker. 

But if Anscombe, who once said he felt “crucified” by Wales fans unhappy at his quick promotion to Test rugby following his arrival from New Zealand, guides Wales to victory on Saturday he can expect hero status.

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Italy and discuss the week’s biggest stories in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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