ENGLAND centre Jonathan Joseph says his side have targeted starting this evening’s RBS Six Nations fixture so fast that even Wales’ famous raucous home support will be left completely redundant in Cardiff.
Red Rose coach Eddie Jones has already tempered the potential of those fervent fans to create their favoured cauldron atmosphere by insisting the Principality Stadium roof is left open for the hugely-anticipated contest.
But England, chasing back-to-back Grand Slams, hope to render such details immaterial as they look for the high-tempo start that eluded them in last week’s patchy opening win versus France.
Bath star Joseph was part of the national side that delivered a rare success in Cardiff two years ago when he conceded the hosts’ traditional roar went quiet in the second period.
“Yes, they did a little bit,” he recalled. “I think the aim for us (this week) is to start the game very well and hopefully not have to wait until the second half for the crowd to quieten down.
“We need to start the game well. We didn’t start the last one too well. It’s something we’ve been working on and will look to do on Saturday.”
Admittedly, England start as favourites, unsurprising given they have just set a new national record of consecutive wins – another tonight would be 16 on the bounce – and alchemist Jones is still yet to lose 14 months after taking over the reins.
But they realise their rivals are cleaner, generally conceding fewer penalties, which can be so crucial in matches of such magnitude.
“Discipline’s always a big factor in games,” added Joseph, who has scored 13 tries in 30 Tests so far.
“Games are won and lost on discipline and errors.
“It’s not so much a team thing, it’s just a lapse of concentration. We have been working on the mental side of the game, to stay in the moment and make sure that if something doesn’t go quite right you’re back on it and your next act is a positive one for the team.”
England are chasing a fourth successive Six Nations victory over Wales and Joseph remains confident they can continue that sequence.
Such is the depth and calibre of their squad, Jones is happy to change a winning side with openside Jack Clifford and winger Jack Nowell earning call-ups.
Exeter Chiefs star Nowell, who will bring some extra dynamism to the visitors’ wide options, was recently outed as a Lego fanatic, conceding he can spend hours at a time constructing the kid toys.
Joseph has been rooming with the 23-year-old ahead of tonight’s game and insisted: “It’s all right actually – it gives me a bit of peace and quiet.
“It’s nice he has got that to take his mind off rugby. If Lego is his thing, Lego is his thing.
“I haven’t joined in yet, started building ships or anything like that. He sure likes it. He’s got a lovely big boat with twisty things on it, stuff like that. Awesome.”
Such distractions have worked wonders for Nowell in the past and Joseph believes he will handle the Cardiff occasion impeccably having been preferred to speedster Jonny May.
“Jack has played in some big games for us,” he said.
“You just have to take it in your stride. This is a huge game and a huge battle, but nothing changes for him.
“He just has to prepare the way that he has done this week, he has to prepare how he would do for a normal match day and go out there and do what he does.
“It’s going to be loud and it’s going to be noisy, but Jack’s a great player. He just needs to back his ability and we’ll all have his back as well.”
Meanwhile, Alex Cuthbert – England’s two-try nemesis when Wales crushed their Grand Slam hopes four years ago – is on red alert to start tonight.
The hosts are giving renowned wing George North the maximum possible time to recover from a leg injury. He was involved in the captain’s run session yesterday, but his inclusion in the actual game remains uncertain.
Cuthbert, who has won 44 caps but not started a Six Nations game since Wales lost to England at Twickenham last season, also took part in the Principality Stadium run-out, as did uncapped Scarlets wideman Steff Evans.
Cuthbert claimed two tries during the 2013 clash in Cardiff, when Wales’ record 30-3 victory not only denied England a grand slam, but meant the home team were crowned champions on points difference.
Fly-half Dan Biggar, though, is less of a fitness concern after going off at half-time during Sunday’s 33-7 win in Italy.