Rob Howley has underlined the expectations Wales will be facing when they meet Six Nations title rivals England at Twickenham tomorrow.
The reigning champions are seeking a fourth successive victory over their traditionally fiercest rivals, and they have not conceded a try against them since Manu Tuilagi’s World Cup warm-up touchdown on August 6, 2011.
Both teams are firmly in the mix for silverware, with Wales still harbouring hopes of landing an unprecedented Six Nations title hat-trick and England knowing that victory would clinch a first Triple Crown for 11 years.
“In normal games of this magnitude your performance has to go up 10 to 15 per cent, and an experienced team is hopefully able to go to that 10 or 15 per cent because you have been there before,” said Wales assistant coach Howley.
“This group of players has been together for a period of time now. They have played and won away from home, and that obviously gives you confidence.
“I keep talking about the Six Nations and the results over the last three rounds. It’s all on the day.
“It is a totally different game one week to the next, and I suppose it is the side that gains momentum, and then under that pressure of the cauldron of Twickenham is able to continue the momentum.
“I am sure the atmosphere is going to be similar to last year (Wales won by a record 30-3 scoreline in Cardiff), but very much England-loaded.
“As players we have to deal with that, and the more experience you have of going away and winning, hopefully you become automated and are able to switch off that outside influence and be very tunnel-visioned in terms of your skill-set, technically and tactically.”
Wales’s preparations have been hit by the withdrawal of Perpignan lock Luke Charteris, who suffered a neck injury during a Wales scrummaging session on Wednesday.
Charteris will be replaced by Berkshire-born Scarlets forward Jake Ball, who shone on his first Test start in the 27-6 victory over France last month.
“On that occasion, he was a late replacement for Alun-Wyn Jones, who had a foot infection.
“Luke had a bit of a stinger with his neck at a scrummaging session on Wednesday. He has come in a little bit sore, and we have taken the decision early to omit him,” added Howley.
“It is a great opportunity for Jake. I thought he was outstanding in the nuts and bolts of his game against France. He played against two experienced second-rows in (Pascal) Pape and (Yoann) Maestri, and he came through with flying colours.
“In terms of his game against France, you couldn’t ask any more.”