Assistant coach John Mitchell has his fingers crossed England won’t become the third opposition in succession to lose a player to a red card when they take on Wales next Saturday in round three of the Guinness Six Nations.
A major talking point in the 2021 championship so far has been how Wales, who struggled all the way through 2020 in Wayne Pivac’s first season in charge, have bounced back this month to record two Six Nations wins against teams who have been reduced to 14 players.
Ireland lost Peter O’Mahony in their game to a red card when he went charging into a ruck. They went on to lose 16-21 while Scotland lost Zander Fagerson to another red in their 24-25 round two loss to Wales, again after he charged into a ruck. O’Mahony was banned for three games and Fagerson for four, a decision the Scottish prop is appealing later on Tuesday at a hearing.
Now, England are heading for Cardiff with discipline high on the agenda for fear they become the third team in a row to hand Wales a decisive one-man advantage. “They are playing really well,” said England assistant Mitchell about the Welsh revival this month. “They look like they have got good balance into the game, they are more aggressive and we hope to remain on the field with 15 white jerseys.
“The only thing we can control is to make sure that we are disciplined in our practice in terms of our height-of-tackle.
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“We can’t control the mitigating circumstances for slipping or sudden changes from your high to low so yeah, it’s just a matter of making sure that we practice the right height which then gives our players a better chance to not be sanctioned because at the end of the day you still want to be dominant in your contact.”
Adding that there were no further injury worries in the England squad after Monday’s departure of the injured Harry Randell for Alex Mitchell, coach Mitchell mentioned how he is very much looking forward to next weekend’s latest Anglo-Welsh showdown just 13 weeks after the teams met in Llanelli in the Autumn Nations Cup.
“It’s one of the best,” he said of the England-Wales rivalry. “I have been through a few of them now and extremely competitive. It will require us to work really, really hard for each other and these games often go down to the wire. We are really looking forward to it and certainly wanting to show what we are capable of for the rest of the Six Nations.”
Despite hailing from New Zealand, Mitchell said he didn’t know Pivac, his fellow Kiwi, all that well aside from playing against him many years ago. “I don’t know Wayne. He played for North Harbour when I was playing for Waikato so we were actually adversaries as players. He was in a pretty good back row with Wayne Shelford and a guy called Kevin Schuler. Both of those guys were All Blacks at the time.
“Yeah, he has been in the game a long time. You can clearly see his philosophy coming through in terms of wanting to play the game at speed and move the ball and ultimately, like any good coach, you have got to learn quickly at the highest level when you don’t get things right, so you need to take your hat off to him because at the moment they [Wales] are playing good rugby.”
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