England boss Jones piles pressure on Wales’ ‘third-choice’ fly-half Patchell
England head coach has engaged in in verbal hostilities ahead of Wales’ visit.
Eddie Jones has ignited the build-up to England’s NatWest 6 Nations clash with Wales by thrusting Rhys Patchell under the spotlight.
Jones has piled the pressure on to the inexperienced 24-year-old Welsh fly-half, who will be winning his seventh cap in the absence of injured playmakers Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland.
Patchell was influential in last weekend’s 34-7 rout of Scotland in Cardiff, but injury-hit Wales were widely written off leading into that match and Jones insists England at Twickenham are a different proposition.
“Every time Rhys Patchell looks up, he’s going to see Jonathan Joseph in his vision – it’s not a great sight,” Jones said.
Jonathan Joseph will start for England against Wales (Adam Davy/PA)“Wales have to get the ball wide and Patchell hasn’t played much Test match rugby. He’s a young guy, he’s inexperienced and is their third-choice 10.
“He’s got to get the ball wide and that’s going to be a big job. It will be different to playing against Scotland.
“Scotland couldn’t cope with the expectation and now he’s got to cope with the expectation of playing well.
“Patchell will have to find guys around him to help because he’ll be under some heat.
“Wales played really well against Scotland but it’s going to be different on Saturday — they had no expectation on them last Saturday but this week they come full of expectation.
“Everyone has been telling them how well they played. (Wales coach) Warren Gatland’s been talking a lot this week. He’s confident. They’re confident.”
It is the first time Jones has sought to engage Wales in verbal hostilities ahead of the eagerly awaited showdown between rivals who completed convincing victories in round one.
Warren Gatland stated earlier in the week that England’s six-day turnaround following their 46-15 demolition of Italy would count against them, but Jones used Thursday’s team announcement press conference to hit back.
“I can remember 18 or 24 months ago someone at the Rugby Football Union, whose name I don’t recollect at the moment, coming in and saying, ‘You play Italy on Sunday and Wales on Saturday, is that OK?’” Jones said.
“No problem, that’s the draw, that’s how we prepare for it. So we’ve had 18 months to prepare for this turnaround.
“Is that difficult? It’s difficult, it’s difficult if you haven’t used your 18 months well. We’ve used our 18 months well. We’ve had a great preparation.”
England have made two changes to their starting XV against Wales, with Jonathan Joseph replacing Ben Te’o at outside centre and Danny Care coming in for the injured Ben Youngs at scrum-half.
Te’o impressed with his powerful carrying against Italy but faded in his first appearance since recovering from ankle surgery undertaken in mid-October, and Jones has opted for the slick footwork, defensive expertise and experience of Joseph in his place.
“It’s just my gut feeling with Joseph,” Jones said. “I feel he will start the game well against Wales. Jonathan’s got great experience, he’s fast, a great defensive player.
“We were very happy with Te’o last week, but it’s also his second game back and, in my experience with players in their second game back from a long injury, it’s always the most difficult game.”