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Steve Borthwick wary of Wales reverting to 'Warrenball' against England


Steve Borthwick insists England must prepare for all eventualities against Wales

Steve Borthwick insists England must prepare for all eventualities against Wales

Steve Borthwick insists England must prepare for all eventualities against Wales

Steve Borthwick has alerted England to the potential for Wales to revert to 'Warrenball' when the RBS 6 Nations title rivals clash at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Under interim head coach Rob Howley the Welsh are seeking to develop a more ambitious style, moving away from the bulldozing approach that has delivered silverware for Warren Gatland.

Tentative steps were taken during the autumn, as Gatland began his sabbatical with the British and Irish Lions, and in the second of half last weekend's rout of Italy they cut loose with replacement fly-half Sam Davies pulling the strings.

But Borthwick insists England must be ready to react to any change in tactics on a day when rain, sleet and snow are forecast to fall on Cardiff.

"Wales do appear to be altering their style of play slightly, that's what the evidence seems to show," the forwards coach said.

"But we won't know for sure what to expect until we see it on the pitch. Players need to be able to adapt because of that.

"Against us they might do something different, they might do something in a different way, so we'll have to be ready to adapt. But under Howley they do seem to be altering their style slightly.

"It's always possible they could revert back, or they could advance and bring something different that we haven't seen yet, so that's why he have to be able to adapt.

"That's why we need a team of leaders - so that we can recognise these things and make decisions accordingly."

Dylan Hartley has been at the helm for all 14 victories masterminded by Eddie Jones, but he was pedestrian in last Saturday's 19-16 triumph over France as he made his first appearance since completing a six-week ban for striking.

On form he is not the best hooker in England - replacement Jamie George holds that distinction - and he is repeatedly taken off in the third quarter, but his leadership is viewed as indispensable by Jones.

"We pick the best team to win and that is the only criteria. Dylan will undoubtedly be better this week," Borthwick said.

"Leadership is important and we are trying to increase the number of leaders in the team. Dylan is part of that and there are others too.

"It's brilliant to have players of the quality of Dylan and Jamie in the matchday squad. What happened last week and what has happened consistently is that the players who came on to finish the game have had a great impact."

England will step into the Principality cauldron with a raw back row comprising of Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford and Nathan Hughes after demoting Tom Wood to the bench for the second match of their title defence.

The trio have four back row starts between them and will be facing a grizzled Welsh unit of Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty.

When asked if England could be bullied due to their lack of experience at flanker and number eight, Borthwick said: "No, I don't have any concerns about that.

"Wales are a very good team and are a threat because of the experience they have in the pack. One or two of their guys have been playing in that Welsh team for a long time now.

"We know Test match rugby and prepare accordingly. International rugby is a level up in intensity and that is why we train the way we do. We have prepared all week for Test match rugby."