Six Nations – England v Wales: Entertainment name of the game for Red Rose

Charlie Ewels insists England aim to entertain while playing tough against Wales at Twickenham today.

England's Charlie Ewels (left) and Maro Itoje (second right) during a training session at The Lensbury Hotel. Picture: Adrian Dennis/PA
England's Charlie Ewels (left) and Maro Itoje (second right) during a training session at The Lensbury Hotel. Picture: Adrian Dennis/PA

It is a make or break round three clash between the rivals, who must win if they are to remain in the Guinness Six Nations title hunt after losing in the opening round.

Twickenham will welcome its first home crowd in the tournament since March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and Ewels is determined to ensure they receive value for money.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“We feel the rivalry too. It’s a game you want to win. We’re in the entertainment business and we want to put on a show. We want to play tough,” Ewels said.

INJURY BLOW: Manu Tuilagi was forced to leave the England training camp due to injury. Picture: Adam Davy/PA

“We want to play hard but, after what has been a pretty grim two years, if people come away with smiles on their faces then that is why we do it.

“The added bit for me this week is being back at Twickenham for the first time. I know we had fans back in the autumn, but this is the first time in the Six Nations.

Wales was the last game we played before Covid. It all lines up. What is always a massive game just feels that little bit bigger.

“Statistics show that home advantage makes an enormous difference. Whether that’s a sub-conscious thing, I don’t know, but you do get that extra lift.

“I definitely feel the hairs on my neck stand up when I first come out and I hear that noise. In moments when you’re on top and you have momentum the crowd will you on.”

Ben Youngs will become England’s most capped men’s player if he steps off the bench against Wales, surpassing the milestone of 114 appearances set by Jason Leonard.

“We presented him with his match shirt. He’s quite an understated guy and he was very understated this morning,” added Ewels.

“We all clapped and he said: ‘we can all celebrate this more after the game.’ What an amazing guy. You have an impression of these superstars and what they are going to be like and then you meet the most salt of the earth bloke in the world.”

England, meanwhile, are confident that Manu Tuilagi’s latest injury setback is only minor after being forced to tear up their midfield plans for today’s clash.

On Thursday, Tuilagi suffered a strain to the same hamstring that was torn against South Africa in the autumn, resulting in his withdrawal from the starting XV that had been named just hours earlier.

No sooner had Eddie Jones warned Wales that England’s “gainline accumulator” was back to his rampaging best, adding that “we’re planning for him to be at full tilt”, than he was on his way home.

The centre has not been ruled out of the final two rounds against Ireland and France pending an update on the severity of the strain, but given his injury history, his prospects of being involved look bleak.

“Manu had a slight hamstring strain at training on Thursday, so he’s left camp and is at home,” said forwards coach Richard Cockerill. “It’s not too serious as far as we know and hopefully he’ll be back soon. Manu is in pretty good spirits. Unfortunately this is part of professional sport.

“Manu’s still got a smile on his face and is optimistic that he’ll be back playing for club and country pretty soon.

“On that front it’s pretty positive but obviously we’re disappointed for him personally, and it’s disappointing for the team as he’d have been an important part of the squad.”

Apart from the crushing sense of misfortune that Tuilagi must endure yet again, England are having to revise their strategy.

Tuilagi’s powerful ball-carrying brings balance to a midfield that includes Marcus Smith and Henry Slade and his absence robs the team of their ability to be direct in attack.

England will announce their reshuffled back line today with Slade likely to shift to inside centre, leaving Elliot Daly and the recalled Joe Marchant to compete for the 13 jersey.

Adam Beard, meanwhile, says Wales’ attention to detail must be spot-on.

“It’s about getting our detail right from minute one to minute 80,” said the Wales vice-captain.

“But it is definitely important that we come out firing from the offset and we start well.

“This is the one you do look forward to, and there is probably a bit more heat on it because it is Wales versus England.”