Jones: Cardiff shadows no longer haunt England

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 08:30

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: England coach Eddie Jones believes his side have "moved on" from their harrowing 2013 loss in Cardiff as they once again prepare for a Six Nations match away to Wales.

Four years ago England, then coached by Stuart Lancaster, arrived in search of a Grand Slam only to be routed 30-3 as Wales took the Six Nations title instead.

They went some way to putting that loss behind him with a 21-16 win on their last visit to the Welsh capital two years ago.

But earlier this week Jones said he wanted to find out why England were "petrified" of playing in Cardiff even though the record of Anglo-Welsh matches there in the Six Nations era stands at four wins apiece.

On reflection, Jones believes his reigning Grand Slam champions will not be overawed by the surroundings on Saturday as they look to extend their national record of successive Test wins to 16.

"There's always shadows in the corners. They're always there and can always come out," Jones said. 

"We've spoken about those shadows this week, but I think the team has moved on."

England launched the defence of their Six Nations title with an unconvincing 19-16 win at home to France last weekend but Jones believes his men will be inspired, not intimidated, by a typically raucous and capacity crowd in Cardiff.

"We're prepared to win and we're prepared for any shenanigans that might go on - and we're looking forward to it," he said.

"They're a cunning lot the Welsh aren't they? They always have been. They've got goats, they've got daffodils, they've got everything. Who knows?

"We were disappointed about how we played against France and it's an opportunity to play in one of the great stadiums of the world."

But the ground will be open to the elements on Saturday after Jones refused permission for the stadium's retractable roof to be shut, something Wales favour as they believe it aids their preferred running game and amplifies the noise of a partisan full house.

Jones has brought in Jack Clifford, fit after a chest injury, into a back row featuring No.8 Nathan Hughes and blindside flank Maro Itoje, best known as a lock, with Tom Wood dropping down to the bench.

"We think he [Clifford] is a really good player and he will give us a bit more pace in the back row," said Jones.

Hughes, Clifford and Itoje have a mere four Test back-row starts between them, whereas the Wales loose forward trio of Ross Moriarty, Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric have a combined 130 appearances to their credit.

Not surprisingly Wales boss Rob Howley, who will have the fit-again Taulupe Faletau on the bench as well, thought this was one area where his side had the edge.

"I think the quality and experience in that back-row will have a significant impact on the game," he said.

Jones has also made one change in the backs with right wing Jack Nowell, impressive off the bench against France, replacing Jonny May.

Howley named wing George North (thigh) and flyhalf Dan Biggar (ribs) in his side after they both suffered injuries in a 33-7 win over Italy in Rome on Sunday, with the inclusion of props Tomas Francis and Rob Evans the only changes to his starting side.

But Howley then left open the possibility of North and Biggar dropping out by saying: "Those two players will be given every opportunity to be fit. They are two experienced and important players for us."

Alex Cuthbert could replace North while Sam Davies, who enjoyed a fine second half off the bench against Italy, is ready to take over from Biggar again.

Howley said England's 15-game winning streak had given them "huge confidence and self-belief".

"They got across the line against France," he added. 

"In the first [Six Nations] games at the weekend, there is always a rustiness, but no doubt they will be ready for this game."

Agence France-Presse

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