Wales boss Warren Gatland believes England are making “a significant mistake” with their travel plans for Saturday’s Six Nations showdown. While the Wales head coach has neglected to play pre-match mind games with his England counterpart Eddie Jones, he did question the squad’s journey timing from Surrey to south Wales.
England are due to travel by road from their Bagshot base to Cardiff on Friday afternoon, which could mean them hitting a renowned M4 travel blackspot around Newport approaching rush-hour. “England are making a significant mistake by travelling tomorrow,” Gatland said.
“Coming through Newport at about five o’clock is probably not the best thing to be doing, going through the Brynglas tunnels. There is a good chance there could be tractors and buses holding them up! That’s going to be an experience for them.”
Wales are seeking a 12th successive victory that would set a new national record, and they have already been acclaimed the best Welsh side of all time by Jones, who continued the mind games after announcing his team on Thursday. But Gatland added: “The only quotes I can see about this being the greatest Wales team are from Eddie Jones.
“It hasn’t come from anyone else, so I wouldn’t be disrespectful enough to say this was the greatest Welsh team ever. It’s a long way off being the greatest Welsh team ever. He’s the one talking us up. We are all aware we’re on a great run and we’ve done well over the last 12 months, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We are just trying to keep our feet on the ground.
“The big challenge for England is five of their forward pack, it’s the first time they are starting at the Principality Stadium. That’s going to be a new experience for five of their players.
“The great thing about coming to Cardiff is the atmosphere. If there was any animosity in the past, that has all gone. There is a huge amount respect between the players from both teams. With the (British and Irish) Lions, the Welsh boys and English boys got on really well.
“I’ve already had a text from John Mitchell (England assistant coach) and Eddie saying they are looking forward to catching up after the game and having a drink. This is all fun and games now, but afterwards it’s about catching up with some mates and enjoying the occasion.”
FULL STORY ? “We're looking forward to it. We know the Welsh fans are too. It's going to be a huge weekend." #WALvENG
— Welsh Rugby Union ? (@WelshRugbyUnion) February 21, 2019
Gareth Anscombe, meanwhile, will start at fly-half for Wales after being preferred to the more experienced Dan Biggar, with Gatland naming a team showing just two changes from the side that beat France three weeks ago.
Dragons lock Cory Hill replaces Adam Beard as skipper Alun Wyn Jones’ second-row partner, while scrum-half Gareth Davies takes over from Tomos Williams, who was not considered due to injury. Prop Samson Lee was also unavailable because of injury. Tomas Francis starts at tighthead and opposes his Exeter team-mate Ben Moon, with Dillon Lewis on bench duty.
Full-back Leigh Halfpenny again misses out following the concussion he suffered three months ago. Scarlets star Halfpenny, who last played on November 10 when Wales beat Australia, trained with Wales this week but he is not involved in the matchday 23.
Gatland said: “They [England] have started extremely well in this competition. “I don’t think anyone knows where we are at the moment, except for ourselves, which is a nice place to be in. We have trained exceptionally well in the last two weeks, and I don’t think England know what team is going to turn up on Saturday. We do.”
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