England got their Six Nations title defence off to a winning start at the weekend with a hard fought 19-16 victory over a resurgent France. With Wales up next, head coach Eddie Jones has begun the mind games early.
Both sides started their campaigns in winning fashion, with Wales topping the table on points difference, ahead of Scotland and then England.
Historically a bitter and bruising encounter between the border sharing countries, whichever side emerges victorious on Saturday will severely dent the title ambitions of the other.
Such is the nature of the Six Nations. Only a Grand Slam will guarantee victory and with bonus points in play for the first time this year, things are sure to remain tight right up until the final weekend.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash with Wales in Cardiff, England boss Eddie Jones has gotten the verbal mudslinging under way early.
Reported by WalesOnline, Jones has thrown shade at Wales despite England 40% win record at the Principality Stadium.
“I can’t work out why the record of England in Wales is so poor.
“I’m sure they have [had good teams in the past] but they are a country of three million people. There seems to be some sort of thing there.
“No one can tell me why the English are petrified of playing Wales in Wales. I will talk to a few blokes to figure out what the problem is and why the record is so horrendous, because it is horrendous.”
The Australian is known for is sharp tongue and, at times, unapologetically boorish style and while it is exactly what England have needed to extract the best of them, it tends to get oppositions’ backs up.
Known for it’s broiling cauldron-like atmosphere, Wales have, in recent years, employed the use of a closed roof to further intensify the home support. However, of the possibility of a closed roof at the weekend, Jones remains undaunted.
“I don’t care. They can have fireworks going off, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same for both teams. The louder and more rowdy, the better it is. Those are the games you want to win. Are they closing [the roof]? We’ll toss a coin and see what happens.
“You have to be able to cope with it. What happens in a World Cup final if you don’t like the atmosphere? That is what Test rugby is about and that is the fun part of it. We have to find a way to overcome that. But it is not going to be overcome by repeating history. We will work out what has been done in the past and make sure we don’t do it. I have a solution for it but I am not prepared to share it with you.”
Jones’ abject dismissal of Wales and their home team advantage is classic Jones as he seeks to empower his side ahead of their crucial clash.
He does however concede to Wales’ lofty standings with world rugby and England’s .
“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 has been difficult for the English to cope with it so we need to find a way where they see it as being a delight.”
Fans on both sides of the border will be looking ahead to this clash with great anticipation. Along with bragging rights, the winner on Saturday will take a huge step towards the title.
Kick off in Cardiff is at 4:50pm.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
On this week’s edition of The Oval Office, we discuss all things Six Nations with George Hook, Paul Williams from Rugby World magazine and former Ireland u-20 international Adam McBurney.
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