HEAD COACH Eddie Jones has called for England to show steely composure when they confront a Wales team willing to “rip off heads” in Cardiff tomorrow.
Jones has braced his Guinness Six Nations favourites for a ferocious onslaught from Warren Gatland’s men – the Championship’s only other Grand Slam-chasing side – that will be driven by emotion.
Earlier in the week Wales watched a one-man play on the life of their celebrated late Lions centre Ray Gravell staged in the changing room at the Principality Stadium that will be used by England.
Defence coach Robin McBryde declared “there will only be one result” if inspiration is drawn from a show shrouded in poignancy, and Jones used a boxing analogy to outline how his players must respond.
“It’s one of those games where we want to have plenty of aggression and toughness, but we need calm heads,” said Jones.
“We need to be able to channel it in the right direction, so we need to be able to play tough, think smart.
“Wales are going to be full of emotions. They’ve been saying they’re ready to rip off heads. The senior players are holding them back.
“They watched a play about Ray Gravell – I remember watching him play, he’s a good player, hey? A really good player.
“So they’re full of emotions and they’ll bring that to the field and we know Wales teams at home want to come out hard. Our job is to be like that heavyweight boxer that comes in there, knows exactly what he’s going to do, waits for the opportunity for the knockout and then takes it.
“Just be calm, but at the same time tough and have a real steel about us. That’s what I want to see.
“And I know we’re going to get it, I know we’re going to get it. I can see it in the players’ eyes now.”
Jones was in mischievous mood as he vowed to ruin Gatland’s farewell party after claiming Wales could crumble beneath expectation.
It is Gatland’s final Six Nations match against England before stepping down after the World Cup and the Kiwi is among the contenders to replace Jones when he departs, potentially also after Japan 2019. Wales are seeking a 12th successive victory that would set a new national record and Jones repeated his claim they are the greatest Welsh team in history, although he has never lost to Gatland in three previous meetings.
“As we know, the week’s all been about Wales. The Dragons are flying so it should be interesting,” said Jones, speaking for the first time since France were routed on February 10.
“They’re up for winning 12 games in a row. It’s Warren’s last game as well before he takes over somewhere else. We are excited to be a part of that and want to spoil the party.
“Wales’ players are full of emotion and it’s the biggest game they are going to play in their lives.
“It’s a big week for them and there’s a lot of expectation. That expectation can either be some wind in their sails or it can be a ball and chain. We’ll find out on Saturday.”
England have made two injury-enforced changes to their starting XV, with Jack Nowell replacing Chris Ashton on the right wing and Ben Moon filling the void left by Mako Vunipola’s absence.
Dylan Hartley will have a clearer idea of his immediate playing future after visiting a knee specialist yesterday, with surgery a possible option to correct an injury that surfaced in December.
Meanwhile, Manu Tuilagi is being offered croissants and baguettes as England look to inject some humour into the gloomy prospect of losing the explosive Leicester centre to the Top 14.
Tuilagi is in discussion with Racing 92 over a lucrative move to France from next season that could potentially make him unavailable for this autumn’s World Cup due to Twickenham’s edict on ignoring players based overseas.
It is understood Leicester spoke to their most prized asset as recently as three days ago in the hope of convincing him to remain at Welford Road and a deal to join Racing has yet to be signed.
However, the Tigers’ board appear resigned to losing the 27-year-old.
Jones said: “We just have fun about it. Give him baguettes, croissants, wear berets. Good fun.
“As long as he doesn’t get on the Eurostar between now and Saturday I’ve got no comment on it because all I’m worried about is Saturday.”
Wales: L Williams (Saracens); G North (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), H Parkes (Scarlets), J Adams (Worcester); G Anscombe (Cardiff), G Davies (Scarlets); R Evans (Scarlets), K Owens (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter), C Hill (Dragons), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt), J Navidi (Cardiff), J Tipuric (Ospreys), R Moriarty (Dragons). Replacements: E Dee (Dragons), N Smith (Ospreys), D Lewis (Cardiff), A Beard (Ospreys), A Wainwright (Dragons), A Davies (Ospreys), D Biggar (Northampton), O Watkin (Ospreys).
England: E Daly (Wasps), J Nowell (Exeter), H Slade (Exeter), M Tuilagi (Leicester), J May (Leicester), O Farrell (Saracens, capt), B Youngs (Leicester), B Moon (Exeter), J George (Saracens), K Sinckler (Harlequins), C Lawes (Northampton), G Kruis (Saracens), M Wilson (Newcastle), T Curry (Sale), B Vunipola (Saracens). Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), E Genge (Leicester), H Williams (Exeter), J Launchbury (Wasps), B Shields (Wasps), D Robson (Wasps), G Ford (Leicester), J Cokanasiga (Bath).