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Warren Gatland's relationship with players not what it was - Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
(Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

There’s never been a build-up like it in 142 years of the fixture but England need to show they’ve learned the lessons of just their last two visits to Cardiff if they’re to beat Wales.

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All the talk has been about the problems in Welsh rugby and I’m sure that will galvanise the players and fans for a one-off encounter against their biggest rivals and England have failed to deal with the circumstances on their last two trips to the Welsh capital.

It couldn’t have been more different to today a couple of years ago as the game was played behind closed doors but Owen Farrell and England were knocked out of their stride by a couple of questionable decisions from Pascal Gauzere and couldn’t come back.

Four years ago it was Kyle Sinckler’s ill-discipline that cost the visitors in the second half as the atmosphere and opposition got on top of England, something which they didn’t acknowledge at the time but have subsequently admitted.

Eddie Jones could drop Kyle Sinckler
England prop Kyle Sinckler (left) reacts during the Six Nations defeat to Wales in Cardiff (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

There is absolutely no doubt that Alun Wyn Jones and co will be looking to deploy similar tactics at times and Steve Borthwick and his coaching team should have been preparing the players for that and ensuring lessons have been learned.

All the focus has been on Wales and that will suit Borthwick down to the ground as he prefers to concentrate on detail rather than drama but the emotional side of the game can’t be ignored when these two lock horns.

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Wales still have huge issues moving forward on and off the pitch but, while some have suggested that eyes could have been taken off the ball and they might be drained of emotion, I think it’ll be the opposite and the Welsh will be fuelled by a sense of injustice as well as pride and passion.

The role of Warren Gatland is intriguing, though, as he can’t speak out against the WRU but players do appear to have been rubbed up the wrong way and from what you hear he doesn’t have the same relationship with the players as he used to.

The optics of him being parachuted in suddenly and swiftly on a bumper contract while players’ futures are so up in the air are not good. Money has been a sticking point and it has taken an age to sort out their deal.

Gatland comes with a big profile and pedigree but it’s fair to say that he hasn’t done anything in recent years with a Lions series defeat in South Africa and torrid few years with the Chiefs on his CV.

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(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Both these teams are just a couple of games into new regimes, even if Gatland has been there for years previously, but their approaches in this tournament couldn’t be more different.

Gatland has made nine changes to the starting XV that lost at Murrayfield and is trialling different combinations with an eye unashamedly on the World Cup, whereas Borthwick is barely tinkering at all and focusing on only the next game after years of Eddie Jones talking about nothing other than the World Cup.

Wales have gone for an experienced pack but some raw backs selected for this one, while England will presumably be hoping they don’t get any ball as they continue with their forward oriented approach.

Owen Williams making his first international start at fly half is a great story after he was involved in everything that went on at Worcester and he’ll be looking to get the ball in the hands of a potentially exciting backline.

We haven’t seen much from England in attack in the opening couple of games and the performances have been disappointing but I think this is a different ball game with the result all-important and anything else a bonus.

It’ll be all about the driving lineout game once more and I expect to see a big focus on the kicking game as well as England try to pin them back into their own 22 and put pressure on them to make mistakes by playing from deep.

Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell the England captain looks dejected after their defeatduring the Six Nations Rugby match between England and Scotland at Twickenham Stadium on February 04, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Farrell has insisted this week that England will relish the fiery and hostile Cardiff atmosphere but you only know how you’re going to react when you’re in the cauldron and it’s likely to be unlike anything they’ve experienced before.

Borthwick will have learned a lot about his players as individuals and as a collective come Saturday night but the result will undoubtedly hinge on how they handle it all and it is something that has caught them out before.

Having said that Wales will be galvanised and ready to go, England look stronger on paper and can’t be concerned with all of the outside noise so I can see them getting a first win in Cardiff for six years by 10 points.

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