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Pressure has cranked up on Wales players, warns Gatland

 

Crunch time: Warren Gatland is keen to see Wales step up
Crunch time: Warren Gatland is keen to see Wales step up

By Andrew Baldock

Wales boss Warren Gatland has told his players they are under pressure to perform against World Cup warm-up opponents England tomorrow.

The fierce rivals meet in Cardiff less than a week after Gatland's men were beaten 33-19 at Twickenham.

Gatland has made just three changes to the line-up, and it features 10 players who were on starting duty in a Six Nations title and Grand Slam-clinching victory over Ireland five months ago.

"It's easy enough to make a lot of changes, but some of the players would have been disappointed with last weekend, and particularly that first 20 minutes," Gatland said. "For us, it's about a chance to redeem ourselves and give those players another hit-out and go out there and perform, and put some pressure on them to perform as well.

"There is a lot of pressure on those guys because if some don't perform, they are opening the door for someone else.

"If you win last week and you win this weekend, you pretty much would have sealed, potentially, a starting spot for the first game in the World Cup.

"That's why we wanted to make sure that players are aware and that they are under pressure."

Scarlets duo Jonathan and James Davies will become the first set of brothers since 2006 to start for Wales.

Gatland has named openside flanker James, who wins his fourth cap, alongside back-row colleagues Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty, while Jonathan partners Hadleigh Parkes in midfield.

They are the first set of brothers to play alongside each other for Wales since Jamie and Nicky Robinson 13 years ago.

James Davies replaces Justin Tipuric, while fly-half Dan Biggar takes over from an injured Gareth Anscombe and lock Jake Ball is in for Adam Beard.

"It's been tough for James," Gatland added. "He has been really struggling with back issues, and he has dug in in terms of the way he has pushed himself when he has been in a lot of pain.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for him. He is pretty fired up.

"We've always been looking at him and seeing his potential. He has been unfortunate that for a few campaigns he has had injuries. We were very impressed with him in Argentina last year."

Biggar starts with Anscombe having suffered a World Cup-ending knee ligament injury at Twickenham.

On Anscombe, Gatland said: "He's done his ACL and a meniscus as well. He did it when he made the break down the sideline. It wasn't from a tackle, he's just stepped off his right leg. You can see the jarring on the video."

Tipuric (ankle) and Beard (wrist), meanwhile, have been left out as a precaution this weekend.

Wales: L Williams (Saracens); G North (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), H Parkes (Scarlets), J Adams (Cardiff Blues); D Biggar (Northampton), G Davies (Scarlets); N Smith (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter), J Ball (Scarlets), AW Jones (Ospreys, capt), A Wainwright (Dragons), J Davies (Scarlets), R Moriarty (Dragons).

Replacements: E Dee (Dragons), W Jones (Scarlets), D Lewis (Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Navidi (Cardiff Blues), A Davies (Ospreys), J Evans (Cardiff Blues), O Watkin (Ospreys).

England: E Daly (Saracens); R McConnochie (Bath Rugby), J Joseph (Bath Rugby), P Francis (Northampton), J Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby); G Ford (Leicester, capt), W Heinz (Gloucester); E Genge (Leicester), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), D Cole (Leicester), J Launchbury (Wasps), M Itoje (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton), L Ludlam (Northampton), B Vunipola (Saracens).

Replacements: J George (Saracens), J Marler (Harlequins), K Sinckler (Harlequins), G Kruis (Saracens), J Singleton (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers), O Farrell (Saracens), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers).

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