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Wales boss Warren Gatland praises 'opinionated' England counterpart Eddie Jones

Published 08/03/2016

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named his team for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against England at Twickenham
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named his team for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against England at Twickenham

Wales boss Warren Gatland has praised England counterpart Eddie Jones for his "refreshing and honest" outlook ahead of Saturday's RBS 6 Nations showdown at Twickenham.

Jones is currently serving a self-imposed media ban, and he has not fronted an England press conference since immediately after the victory over Ireland 10 days ago, although that exile is due to end on Thursday this week..

New Zealander Gatland is an admirer of the straight-talking Australian, and he said: "Eddie has brought a bit of an edge. What he has done is just expressed himself and said what he thinks.

"He has been honest and opinionated, and I think that's been great for the game. It sounds like the (England) players are really enjoying the environment and thriving on that

"I get on with Eddie well. I think he's been great. He has been refreshing and he has been honest.

"I think when he does say something out of turn, it is important you guys (media) don't jump on him, otherwise he will clam up and stay quiet. Give him the licence to speak his mind and say what he wants to say, without actually analysing everything or making headlines out of things."

Gatland has named an unchanged team to face fellow unbeaten challengers England in what is effectively a Six Nations title decider, retaining the starting line-up that accounted for France 11 days ago, although there are three switches on the bench.

Scrum-half Rhys Webb, who was called into Wales' Six Nations squad on Monday following a six-month injury absence from Test rugby, is among the replacements, along with fit-again lock Luke Charteris and prop Paul James.

Ospreys loosehead James takes over from 122 times-capped Gethin Jenkins, who is continuing his recovery from a calf muscle strain.

Charteris missed the France game due to a knee injury and was replaced by Wasps forward Bradley Davies, who continues in the second row alongside Alun-Wyn Jones.

Webb, meanwhile, has not played for Wales since their final World Cup warm-up fixture against Italy last September.

The 27-year-old suffered a serious foot injury during that match and was ruled out of World Cup contention. He returned to action last month, and has made three comeback appearances in Ospreys colours.

Cardiff Blues scrum-half Lloyd Williams drops out of the matchday 23, together with Jenkins and Scarlets lock Jake Ball.

Reflecting on his selection, Gatland added: " It was pretty straightforward - there was not much discussion at all about selection. As a team, we are in a pretty good place.

"I think both teams have got very strong defences. We pride ourselves on being able to play without the ball, and England are pretty good in that regard.

"We won't disappoint (England fly-half) George Ford in terms of where we go on Saturday.

"We won't be throwing the ball all over the place, we will be pretty direct. We need to earn the right to go wide, and we've got players to get us across the advantage line, and hopefully when we do get across the advantage line we can play some pretty positive rugby."

Wales have beaten England three times at Twickenham since Gatland took charge eight years ago, with their most recent triumph being a dramatic 28-25 World Cup pool stage victory last September.

Another Wales win would then leave them needing to beat Six Nations strugglers Italy at home on Saturday week to secure a fourth Six Nations title of Gatland's reign.

England, though, will close in on Six Nations silverware - and leave themselves one win away from achieving a first Grand Slam since 2003 - if they defeat their unbeaten title rivals this weekend.

"We've not spoken about the World Cup and what happened there," Gatland said. "It was a great performance to get out of the group, but we feel in much better shape than at the World Cup.

"The guys are training well, and we are treating Saturday like a final.

"They (England) are a good side. They have a lot of strength in depth, and young players continuing to improve. It will be one heck of a game on Saturday, and whoever wins, probably wins the Six Nations."

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