Wales vs. England: Jones and Gatland start mind games ahead of Six Nations clash
Jones hails the ‘greatest Wales side ever’ as Gatland warns visitors of travel issues
Wales vs. England
- What: Six Nations 2019 round three
- When: Saturday 23 February
- Where: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
- Start time: 4.45pm (GMT)
- TV channel: live on BBC One and S4C
The eagerly awaited Wales vs. England Six Nations match kicks off at 4.45pm on Saturday, but the mind games began on Thursday when the two coaches named their starting line-ups and threw some choice morsels at the media pack.
Ahead of the Cardiff clash between the two remaining unbeaten teams, England head coach Eddie Jones described his opponents as the “greatest Wales side ever”, a phrase that drew a wry smile from Warren Gatland.
“The only quotes I can see about this being the greatest Wales team are from Eddie Jones,” joked Wales coach Gatland.
“It hasn’t come from anyone else so I wouldn’t be disrespectful enough to say this was the greatest Welsh team ever. It’s a long way off being the greatest Welsh team ever. He’s the one talking us up.”
Wales are unbeaten in 12 matches, but given the way Jones’s side have played against Ireland and France in the first two rounds, that run could be broken.
Gatland is well aware of the threat posed, and has indulged in a bit of a psychological warfare himself. “The big challenge for England is five of their forward pack, it’s the first time they’re starting at the Principality Stadium,” declared the coach, before apparently switching into travel reporter mode.
“I think England are making a significant mistake by travelling tomorrow, coming through Newport at about five o’clock is probably not the best thing to be doing, going through the Brynglas tunnels,” he said.
“There’s a good chance there could be tractors and buses holding them up. That’s going to be an experience for them.”
Gatland has made 11 changes to the side that beat Italy in Rome a fortnight ago, the most significant of which is the recall of Gareth Anscombe at fly-half in preference to Dan Biggar.
Gareth Davies is chosen at scrum-half to partner Anscombe, while George North and captain Alun Wyn Jones are back after being rested against the Italians.
“We’ve had a great two-week lead-up to this game, we’ve looked really sharp and the squad are incredibly motivated to kick on,” said Gatland, whose side last lost on 24 February 2018, against Ireland.
“It’s a massive challenge playing against an England team that is playing really well and with a lot of confidence, and we’ve got to make it difficult for them on Saturday.”
Nowell gets the nod
In contrast to Wales, England have made just two changes to the starting XV that thrashed France 44-8 at Twickenham, with Jack Nowell replacing the injured Chris Ashton on the wing, and prop Ben Moon in for the crocked Mako Vunipola.
Wing Joe Cokanasiga and flanker Brad Shields are among the replacements and in line to make their first appearance of the championship.
“We are playing potentially the greatest team ever,” declared Jones.
“Their players are full of emotion and it’s the biggest game they are going to play in their lives. We have had a good week just focusing on ourselves and focusing on getting our preparation right.”
Starting XVs and replacements
- Starting XV: 15. Liam Williams, 14. George North, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Josh Adams, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 9. Gareth Davies; 1. Rob Evans, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Cory Hill, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 6. Josh Navidi, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Ross Moriarty
- Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Nicky Smith, 18. Dillon Lewis, 19. Adam Beard, 20. Aaron Wainwright, 21. Aled Davies, 22. Dan Biggar, 23. Owen Watkin
- Starting XV: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Ben Moon, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Kruis, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Billy Vunipola
- Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Joe Cokanasiga
Six Nations round three fixtures
Saturday 23 February
- France vs. Scotland (2.15pm, live on BBC One)
- Wales vs. England (4.45pm, live on BBC One and S4C)
Sunday 24 February
- Italy vs. Ireland (3pm, live on ITV)