Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Wales boss Gatland: So much at stake in England game

Warren Gatland wants rugby to "do the talking" when he sends his Wales team into a World Cup showdown against host nation England on Saturday.

Wales head coach Gatland readily acknowledges the huge importance of this weekend's titanic Twickenham encounter as both countries continue their quest for a quarter-final place.

"Our record since I have been involved with Wales is 5-5 (against England), all of which is not bad for a nation the size of Wales against the most powerful and richest union in the world," Gatland said.

"I am comfortable with that record, and it's about winning on that biggest stage.

"Let's hope it is a great game, and afterwards, for whoever wins or loses, I would like both teams to have a beer and chat. There is huge respect.

"May the best team win by playing the best rugby. Let's hope there is not a controversial decision. Let the rugby do the talking."

Reflecting on England's new-look midfield trio of Owen Farrell, Sam Burgess and Brad Barritt, Gatland added: "He (Burgess) is a world-class player.

"They are a quality team, and they could have picked a number of players. We were expecting they would go with the same 10 12 13 (as against Fiji), so that threw us for a few days.

"Sam is similar in size and stature to Jamie Roberts, and Brad Barritt is very experienced and a great defender. They believe that's the right selection.

"At the moment, I wouldn't mind the same dilemma to have that quality of choice, as they have some quality players.

"It's another level (on Saturday). There is so much at stake.

"For us as a nation, this is the biggest game we've had for a long time against England. We have a huge amount of respect for England."

Hallam Amos, meanwhile, has received a 21st birthday present to savour by being named in the Wales starting line-up for Saturday's encounter.

Newport Gwent Dragons back Amos, 21 on Thursday, takes over from Alex Cuthbert, who is on the bench, while there are also starts for Exeter tighthead prop Tomas Francis and Wasps lock Bradley Davies.

Elsewhere, Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams will oppose England's new-look centre combination of Burgess and Barritt, while Samson Lee and Aaron Jarvis provide prop cover on the bench. Prop Paul James, who suffered a tight calf muscle against Uruguay last Sunday, does not make the match-day 23.

But, as expected, full-back Liam Williams takes his place in the starting XV after recovering from a knock to the thigh that he suffered against Uruguay.

Like James, Lee experienced a tight calf in the Uruguay match and went off early, but he has been named among the replacements, with York-born Francis wearing the number three shirt.

Lock Davies, meanwhile, has gained the call to be Alun-Wyn Jones' second-row partner after putting an injury-hit recent history behind him. He was outstanding during Wales' World Cup warm-up win against Ireland in Dublin last month.

And Gatland has decided not to tinker with his tried-and-tested back-row combination of Dan Lydiate, skipper Sam Warburton and number eight Taulupe Faletau, despite flanker Justin Tipuric's run of impressive form.

"We've had Samson seen by a specialist and scanned. His Achilles is fine, but what he's got is pain in his heel which is causing some irritation," Gatland said.

"Paul James has a slight tight calf, and we didn't want to risk it. There is a short turnaround for the Fiji game (next Thursday), and he is important for that.

"The thing with England is your front-five has got to operate and bring that physicality. There are a lot of things we need to cope with. It's a huge challenge for us."


From Belfast Telegraph