England’s head coach Eddie Jones has attempted to undermine Wales’ Grand Slam attempt by declaring they must face Ireland while suffering from fatigue.
Warren Gatland’s men will be crowned Guinness Six Nations champions if they prevail at the Principality Stadium in the second of tomorrow’s three fixtures.
But England are waiting to pounce knowing that if Wales falter then victory over Scotland in the finale to the tournament at Twickenham would propel them to the title.
Jones has ramped up the pressure by insisting resurgent Ireland are ready to capitalise on Welsh weariness.
“I’m just saying what I see and I see a team that’s looking tired. It’s tough. You can see they’re getting tired,” Jones said.
“They have made more tackles than anyone else in the tournament and they are playing against an Ireland side that seems to be peaking at the right time.
“Ireland have had a few players off the pace, which happens. Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray have been off the pace a little bit, but now they look like they’ve got their mojo back.
“They’re working well together. It was quite evident in the last game that their relationship was stronger than it has been for a while.
“You’ve got Garry Ringrose playing well, Peter O’Mahony coming back. James Ryan went through a little bit of... he was the star and everyone targeted him.
“Now he’s finding his feet again. They’re in a good spot and they’ve got a lot to prove in the last game.”
Gatland hit back by pointing out that it’s actually England who have made most tackles in the tournament – 793 compared to Wales’ 660.
“What the hell is Eddie Jones doing talking about our game? If it was me I’d be concentrating on playing Scotland,” joked Gatland.
“If you look at the stats England have made a hell of a lot more tackles than us in this tournament. My advice to Eddie is to concentrate on the Scotland match.”
Wales are bidding for a third Grand Slam under Gatland, which would be a record for any Five or Six Nations coach if his players accomplish it.
It would also leave them in great shape six months before their World Cup challenge in Japan.
“I pride myself on the record I’ve had in big matches when it has really mattered,” added Gatland ahead of his final Six Nations game as Wales head coach before he steps down later this year. “I even get more of a buzz when people write us off, which has happened on a number of occasions before.
“It’s about building belief and confidence in the players. We’ve worked in the (Six Nations) down weeks and we’ve trained as hard as any team I have seen.
“We’ve put that training in the bank, and there is no way anyone is training as hard as us in this Six Nations. If you want something bad enough and you really believe it can happen then it often does.”