London - Wales coach Warren Gatland's verbal assault on Dylan Hartley has brought England closer together, captain Mike Tindall warned on Thursday, on the eve of the two sides' Six Nations opener.
Gatland raised a few eyebrows last week with a series of disparaging remarks about England hooker Hartley, ahead of Friday's much-anticipated showdown at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
But Tindall, who will captain England in place of the injured Lewis Moody, said the Welsh coach's remarks had been viewed as an attack on the whole team.
"You have got to support your players. If anyone has a pop at one player, they are having a pop at the team," said Tindall.
"That is how we have to respond as a team, get behind each other and go out there to solve the problem.
"Dylan is a good enough professional to understand what is going on. I expect a big game out of him, and hopefully the boys will rally around and put in the same performance for him."
"It is always a fierce rivalry, and that is the way it should be. We are going to honour that by playing hard rugby on the field."
Tindall is the only player in England's starting line-up to have tasted victory in Cardiff, where England have not won since 2003.
The 32-year-old centre said the squad's tight-knit, collective determination has been one of the cornerstones of the improvement shown by Martin Johnson's squad over the past 12 months.
"Everyone has bought into how we are trying to run England rugby. Everyone gets on, everyone bonds together really well. It sounds a small thing, but it makes a massive difference," Tindall said.
"That translates to people fighting that bit harder for the guy next to them. In those pressure situations it makes a difference."
Tindall said England had absorbed the lessons of the November internationals, when they were punished for a slow start in a defeat to New Zealand, before being physically bullied by South Africa in their final game.
England would need to disrupt Wales's gameplan from the outset if they were to have any chance of ending their long barren streak in Cardiff.
"Wales always have the ability to pull out massive performances when things go right for them. We have to expect that to happen.
"The first 20 minutes we have to get out there and put a stop on it before it gets going. We have to start well. If we can impose our game we will be in a strong place to control the game."