"There's that intense rivalry there, and you're never going to get away from that. There's this little country sitting there next to a big country. It's little brother, big brother."
Eddie Jones may not be a native Englishman however he fully understands the ferocity of the rivalry between England and Wales. It is the most potent of all in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the one that has provided some of the most intense RBS 6 Nations test matches in recent years and Saturday's will have an extra edge due to their recent history.
On Thursday afternoon Eddie Jones openly dismissed the notion that memories of 'that' game on 26 September will fuel his squad's motivation, in spite of eight of the same starting XV being on the field. Instead he deemed it to be 'irrelevant' and followed that with;
"We haven't spoken about it once because it is irrelevant to this group of players. This group of players trains differently and they think differently about the game. We've all had games in the past where we've been scarred. I've been scarred by games in the past as a coach, but if you carry those on you don't stay involved in high-level sport because you can't carry baggage around."
This dismissal of what occurred in September is a clear statement from England's camp to their opponents. In their refusal to discuss 'that' test match they are limiting the opportunities to highlight the fact that on the big stage they were weaker than Saturday's opponents. Instead they are reinforcing, wholeheartedly, the fact that this is a 'new' England, a stronger England and one that has fresh motivations and a forward looking lens.
Like all tests between England and Wales this match is going to be attritional and intense. In defence neither side will give an inch, Shaun Edwards and Paul Gustard are two of the best defensive minds in the Northern Hemisphere and as a result both sides are well organised and confrontational. Wales won't deliver too many surprises instead they'll play the powerful and direct game that has unstuck others so far this tournament. But, England's head coach has said that from it he sees 'massive opportunities to attack them' due to 'certain players having certain habits'. Naturally Eddie Jones didn't go into further detail about these opportunities but if Ford and Farrell are at their decision making best and the rest of the back line raise their game England then have the ability to penetrate Wales' line sufficiently.
Of course other elements will have great significance on the test match as this week's verbal jousting has paid testament too. Eddie Jones' open criticism of Wales' 'terribly illegal' practices at the scrummage is yet another part of his strategy to put England in the best possible position ahead of the game. The Australian may have left his war of words late but he's fired his shots well and with precision. Jones has gone on the front foot saying England's scrummage is 'stronger' so they want the laws to be properly enforced in order to ensure a fair contest. We all know how critical set piece dominance is and with Wales pointing the finger again at Joe Marler all eyes will be on the two sets of front-rows and more importantly on referee Craig Joubert.
The mantra from inside England's camp is to focus on the here and now and that includes settled XV that has been building with every match and a bench that is an extremely exciting one. Earlier this week Manu Tuilagi made waves in camp by cutting lines through England's defensive pattern, much to the displeasure of defensive coach Paul Gustard. Tuilagi may still be a number of games away from his very best but by what he has shown in training and on the field for Leicester highlights we know that he is ready to make the impact required of him. Others on the bench, Mako Vunipola, Danny Care and Joe Launchbury in particular, have all proven their worth this tournament and will be vital in enabling England to play at maximum intensity for the full eighty.
Wales are a settled and experienced test team, one that doesn't fear Twickenham in the slightest and one that expects to win on Saturday. On paper Wales should win this test match with their greater experience and yet you sense that England are about to deliver a huge performance, the one that we should have seen back in September. In doing so England will take another step forwards as a 'new' side and, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, will gain revenge for that harrowing defeat back in September 2015.Suggest a correction