Eddie Jones believes talk about the demise of Wales could be greatly exaggerated, the England boss suggesting that Wayne Pivac’s strugglers are in a backs-to-the-wall situation they will likely relish when the countries face off at Llanelli on Saturday.
The Welsh finally ended a six-match losing streak under new boss Pivac with their dour 18-0 win over a Georgia team England defeated 40-0 the previous week in London in the Nations Cup. That was one of six wins in succession for Jones’ charges, a run that includes their 2020 Six Nations title-clinching victory in Italy last month.
Having made just one change to the England XV, George Ford coming back at out-half with injured midfielder Ollie Lawrence dropping out, Jones now heads to Wales amid widespread predictions that it is going to be an easy enough outing.
The England boss doesn’t agree, though, telling his post-selection media conference: “They [Wales] are in a situation they probably relish. They have been written off. They are playing at the heart and soul of Welsh rugby, the Llanelli ground, so there is a lot of symbolism for them and nothing will make their season sweeter than having a win over England.
“We are expecting a really tough game. Twelve months ago they were Grand Slam champions, three points from making a World Cup final, so they have got the same players, they’re a talented team and we’re going to have to be at our best to meet the challenge they are going to put out.”
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 26, 2020
Jones has opted for a six-two forwards/backs split on his bench, including an extra back row in the guise of Jack Willis. “It’s going to be one of the key contests,” he continued. “You have the set-piece, the breakdown and the aerial contest at the moment and all three of those are going to be important.
“Which one is going to be the most important we don’t know. If we had a crystal ball I might be able to tell you but unfortunately I don’t have one of those but we think that is going to be a significant area of the game,” he said, adding his reasons for including Ford to start.
“We just feel this is the best 23 for this particular game. There’s the tactical application to the way we want to play against Wales and George fits that bill. We want to play a certain way against Wales. Having George at No10, Owen (Farrell) at No12 and Henry (Slade) at 13 suits the sort of game we want to play.
“It’s always a tough game (in Wales), we know that. We’re prepared for that. We have had a great week’s training. We just got to tidy up our attitude for the game now to make sure we are 100 per cent ready to go right at the start of the game and play with an intensity that Wales have never faced before.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 25, 2020
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