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Dan Cole says England are taking Wales clash seriously amid cynicism

Dan Cole insists England are treating Sunday's clash with Wales at Twickenham as a full-on Test match despite the general apathy surrounding the fixture.

The Grand Slam champions will be missing their Aviva Premiership finalists - Saracens and Exeter contest the end-of-season showpiece at the same venue 24 hours earlier - but still expect to topple Warren Gatland's men.

The final weekend in May is traditionally reserved for the annual non-cap international against the Barbarians, but in order to compensate clubs for the disruption caused by last autumn's World Cup the opposition has been upgraded to one of the nation's greatest rivals.

It has increased players' work-load ahead of their three-Test tour to Australia at a time when burn-out is a critical issue, but Cole welcomes the opportunity to face one of England's oldest foes.

"It's Test match. Ideally I'd be playing in the Premiership final, but I'm not. It's not a warm-up game, it's a Test match," the Leicester prop said.

"For me it's part of the Australia tour, a four-Test block. It's good being in camp because (head coach) Eddie Jones has put a real spring into the English step."

Cole's sentiment is shared by forwards coach Steve Borthwick, who hinted that England will pick their strongest available team when they name their 23 on Friday morning.

Borthwick insists England should expect to win on Sunday despite the unavailability of stars such as Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Jack Nowell in front of what is expected to be full house.

"From our perspective this is a Test match. It feels like a huge and exciting Test match," the forwards coach said.

"At this point we've sold 78,000 tickets so it's going to be a sell out or very close to a sell out.

"The supporters are excited about it and it's a brilliant opportunity to be playing this game in May in what should be good game.

"We've prepared the best we can and we want to win as many matches as we can."

"I played in a few games at Twickenham that were pre-World Cup games and things like that. They were fantastic opportunities."

Much of England's starting XV largely picks itself with back row and the midfield providing the only areas of uncertainty.

Jack Clifford is likely to start at number eight in the absence of Vunipola, who is in action for Saracens, with Teimana Harrison in line to make his debut off the bench.

Jones' choice at inside centre will be telling with whoever is given the nod between Ollie Devoto and Luther Burrell likely to be given the job of replacing hamstring-injury victim Manu Tuilagi in the touring squad bound for Australia.


From Belfast Telegraph