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'That is something that sits in the back of my head': The mental scar driving England's Proudfoot on against Wales

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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Matt Proudfoot is hoping his scars from being involved in a four-game losing streak with South Africa against Wales will help ensure he has his England forwards primed to fire in next Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations round three game at Cardiff. 


The ex-Springboks assistant had a 0-4 record against the Welsh, losing three consecutive Principality Stadium games by 14, 2 and 9-point margins and another in Washington by two points. That was before South Africa finally edged past Wales at the World Cup by a three-point margin in an October 2019 semi-final. 

Proudfoot has since been involved in two winning England performances over Wales since linking up as Eddie Jones’ forwards coach last year, winning at Twickenham and Llanelli, but thoughts of that yesteryear losing streak with the Springboks against the Welsh aren’t far from his mind ahead of his latest match-up against them. 

“(Alun) Wyn Jones, what more can you say about him? (Justin) Tipuric, exceptional rugby player. We [England] understand the challenge,” said Proudfoot. 

“I coached for years against Wales and didn’t beat them so I understand how tough they are up front. I went there four times and lost four times. That is something that sits in the back of my head to know how well the (England) pack has got to play and how intense they have got to be in the collision area to be able to keep your foot in the competition against Wales.

We improved a bit from the Scottish game to the Italian game. Our competitiveness will need to improve. Structurally we were better but competitively we will need to improve to take on the intensity that the Welsh side will bring. It about setting the right tone in preparation, creating the opportunity where players can bring their competitiveness out some more. 


“That is definitely the mindset we have created in training, it’s definitely the mindset that players have shown throughout the week, so I expect them to bring that. It is something they are, something that English packs are known for, and I’m sure that is what we will be bringing his week.”

England made four changes to their starting pack after the opening round loss to Scotland and while he gave nothing away regarding what team Jones will select to take on Wales, he gave praise to the influence of Courtney Lawes who was one of the changes last time out versus the Italians. 

“The balance that Courtney brings to the pack is crucial,” he reckoned. “He gives you a real presence, particularly around the edges defensively or carrying the ball. But more so you get those type of forwards that just are the glue in a pack. 

“It is not something you can measure on a spreadsheet, it is not something you measure in a stat, but it’s just the presence they bring, the confidence they bring to players around them. When you have a guy like Courtney next to Jonny (Hill), then it brings that type of connection.”



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