Six Nations

Jones, Gatland set stage for fiery Anglo-Welsh clash

2018-02-09 11:10
Warren Gatland (Getty)

London - Two of the unbeaten teams in this season's Six Nations go head to head when champions England meet Wales at Twickenham on Saturday. 

And if the match is as lively as the build-up created by Eddie Jones and Warren Gatland, a capacity crowd are in for a treat. 

Jones doesn't take kindly to suggestions his side, who launched their bid for an unprecedented third successive outright Six Nations title with a 46-15 win over Italy in Rome last weekend, are being outshone. 

A day before England's victory, Wales hammered Scotland 34-7 in Cardiff, a win that saw them lauded for their attacking flair, albeit against error-strewn opponents. 

There were plaudits for Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell, only playing following injuries to the far more experienced duo of Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland. 

But Jones said playing England in front of an 82 000 capacity at Twickenham would be a very different experience for the 24-year-old. 

"Every time Rhys Patchell looks up, he's going to see Jonathan Joseph in his vision - it's not a great sight," Jones said, having recalled the Bath centre to his starting line-up instead of Ben Te'o, with scrumhalf Danny Care replacing the injured Ben Youngs in the only other change to the run-on XV in Rome. 

"He (Patchell) is a young guy, he's inexperienced and is their third-choice 10. Patchell will have to find guys around him to help because he'll be under some heat. 

"Wales played really well against Scotland but it's going to be different on Saturday - they had no expectation on them last Saturday but this week they come full of expectation." 

If Patchell is under pressure to back up a big performance now he's facing superior opponents, the same could be said of England No 8 Sam Simmonds, who starred against Italy following a backrow injury crisis. 

Australian coach Jones has won 23 of his 24 Tests in charge of England following his appointment after a 2015 World Cup where a Twickenham defeat by Wales played a key role in the side's first-round exit. 

Gatland, part of the northern hemisphere scene for even longer, is about to set a notable record. 

Saturday will see the New Zealander coaching his 99th Test in charge of Wales, surpassing Frenchman Bernard Laporte's mark of games for one Six Nations country. 

Only former All Blacks coach Graham Henry, with a world record 103 Tests in charge of New Zealand, is ahead of Gatland overall in this respect. 

It is a decade since Gatland launched his reign as Wales coach with a stunning come-from-behind 26-19 win over England at Twickenham - a result that set Wales on the way to a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2008. 

"We have not been afraid of going there (Twickenham) since I have been involved," said Gatland. 

This week saw Gatland, who has guided the British and Irish Lions to a series win in Australia as well as last year's draw with world champions New Zealand, suggest Jones could lead the combined side to South Africa in 2021. 

"He'll do a great job if he's Lions coach," said Gatland who then duly had a gig at Jones. "A 3-0 (Test series win) will be expected. It's probably the easiest of the three tours, isn't it?" 

Gatland has named an unchanged XV, with the lone alteration to his match day 23 the return of powerhouse wing George North. 

The Wales boss said the fact his side had an extra day's preparation for this weekend's clash could potentially make a "big difference". 

But ahead of what is sure to be a bruising battle up front, for all the back-line talent on show, Jones was having none of it.

 

"We've had 18 months to prepare for this turnaround," he said. "Is that difficult? It's difficult, if you haven't used your 18 months well. We've used our 18 months well."

Read more on:    england  |  wales  |  six nations  |  warren gatland  |  eddie jones  |  rugby
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Friday, 23 February 2018
France v Italy, Stade Velodrome 22:00
Saturday, 24 February 2018
Ireland v Wales, Aviva Stadium 16:15
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