England seek solution as they enter Dragons' den

ENGLAND head coach Eddie Jones admits his primary aim today is to discover just why the national side is so 'petrified' of facing Wales in Cardiff.

England celebrate victory over France on Saturday (Picture:  David Davies/PA Wire).
England celebrate victory over France on Saturday (Picture: David Davies/PA Wire).

They head there in the RBS Six Nations on Saturday having opened the tournament with an unconvincing 19-16 win over France at Twickenham.

England, aiming to become the first side to complete back-to-back grand slams in the competition’s history, have won just two fixtures at the Millennium Stadium during the last 13 years.

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They have crumbled on numerous occasions to the Red Dragons and Jones – on his first visit to the imposing Welsh citadel since taking over as coach – has made it his priority to get to the root of the problem.

Given the canny Australian has stretched his 100 per cent win record as England coach to 14 successive games, the France match also setting a national record of 15 straight victories, you would imagine he will find the answer.

But he conceded: “Psychologically, you have got to get it right when you are playing Wales in Wales. There seems to be some sort of thing there – no-one can tell me why the English are petrified of playing Wales in Wales.

“We have a few blokes who’ve played at Cardiff so I don’t need to go very far to find out. They are thinking about it and they are going to tell me.

“I will talk to them to figure out what the problem is and why the record is so horrendous.

“I’m sure they’ve (had good teams in the past), but they are a country of three million people...”

England players admitted being shocked by the cacophony of noise created in the 75,000 capacity Millennium Stadium when they crashed to an embarrassing 30-3 defeat that ended their 2013 grand slam and title hopes.

Stuart Lancaster, coach at the time, responded by blaring out Welsh hymns at training in the build-up to their next visit two years later and they duly delivered a rare win.

Asked jokingly if earplugs might be one of the solutions, Jones retorted: “No, no. It is an amazing atmosphere, how could you not want to play rugby there?

“It is one of the greatest rugby countries in the world so to play Wales in Cardiff with that sort of atmosphere is one of the great delights of rugby. Obviously it’s been difficult for the English to cope with it so we need to find a way where they see it as delightful.

“What happens in a World Cup final if you don’t like the atmosphere? You have to be able to cope with that. That’s what Test rugby is about. That is the fun part of it.”

Wales’ fervent fans sound even louder when the stadium’s roof is closed but Jones insists he is indifferent to whether it remains open or shut, saying England would “toss a coin” when told it is the visitors’ decision.

“I don’t care mate. They can have fireworks going off. It doesn’t matter,” he maintained.

What he does care about is improving England’s performance after what he described as an “awful” display against France.

The reigning champions trailed for large parts of Saturday’s game and needed a 70th-minute try from replacement centre Ben Te’o to rescue them.

Jones had wanted a fast start but they were far from that.

“We just stood off – it was quite strange,” he admitted.

“I have to look at my preparation because if the players aren’t doing what we set out to do then the preparation hasn’t been right.

“The great thing about rugby is that it is a human sport; you put 15 guys out there and you don’t know how they are going to react on the day. We were just off the pace for some reason.”

He did have issues with how the set-piece was managed, though, and added: “Every time there was a scrum there was a debate. It was like Parliament watching Theresa May go against the other bloke.

“Unless they get consistent in the engagement and follow one rule then they are going to have these problems. There was just too much time out of play today.”

Wales started out against Italy in Rome yesterdaya 33-7 won, but Ireland’s hopes of a third title in four years suffered a big blow 24 hours earlier when they lost a thrilling game 27-22 against Scotland in Edinburgh.

Match report: Page 7