Owen Farrell has warned Wales that England are a different team to the one that collapsed to a harrowing defeat in last autumn’s World Cup.
Today’s 128th meeting between the old rivals sees the RBS 6 Nations title at stake with the winners almost certainly going on to seize Ireland’s crown, the Red Rose potentially managing that achievement as early as tomorrow when Scotland host France.
Among the most painful of the 57 defeats endured by England was the 28-25 loss in September that set the hosts on the path to World Cup ruin, throwing away a commanding position amid a spectacular loss of nerve in the final quarter.
Thirteen players may remain from the matchday 23 used on that crushing Twickenham evening, but Farrell insists Eddie Jones’s team have moved on.
“It’s different now, we’re in a different place. We’re however many months on from that,” the Saracens centre said.
“There’s not a week that we spend together where we don’t get better. That’s happened since we’ve got here. That’s what we are focusing on.
“We make sure we leave no stone unturned, but we are concentrating on getting better.”
In the closing moments during the pool showdown in September England decided to kick for touch and launch an attacking line-out instead of taking shot at goal, but the gamble failed when their line-out was pushed into touch.
It transpired they would have qualified for the knockout phase had they taken a successful shot at goal and skipper Chris Robshaw ultimately paid for the decision by losing the captaincy.
If Robshaw’s successor Dylan Hartley leaves the pitch at Twickenham today, Farrell is the nominated leader and the responsibility for making late calls will fall on him.
“We’ve gone through some scenarios. I think we’ve prepared well. We’ve got all the big things covered off,” Farrell said.
“It’s not pre-planned. Some decisions are obvious, some aren’t. Some you need a feel for how the game is going, some are dead set decisions. We’ll know when to use which one.”
Jamie Roberts has backed experience as an essential element of Wales’ bid to repeat their World Cup heroics and floor England.
Wales were the last team to inflict a Six Nations defeat on England at Twickenham, four years ago, and today’s meeting once again looks finely balanced.
But when it comes to caps, Wales hold a distinct edge, with a combined 675 appearances in their starting line-up and 281 more on the bench. England, in contrast, have 268 caps fewer across their matchday 23.
“Across the board, if you look at our squad now there is a lot of experience there and guys who have played in big moments,” Wales centre Roberts said.
“It’s a different pressure, and to be able to concentrate your focus and attention when the stakes are at their highest is something you can only learn with experience. I would back our side any day.
“When there is much on the line, it (Twickenham) is an incredible place to play, and the boys are looking forward to Saturday.
“There has been a different air about the squad this week since we came in on Monday morning, and you could feel it’s a big week.”
Roberts, who now plays his club rugby with Harlequins alongside key England men like Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown, is quick to salute an impressive post-World Cup recovery under new Red Rose head coach Eddie Jones.
“Full respect to England,” Roberts added. “From what they went through in the World Cup, they have come back really strong.
“They have regrouped under a new coaching team, and if you watch, they are playing with enjoyment and width on the game and putting teams under pressure.”