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Warren Gatland wants statement of intent in England game

Wales boss Warren Gatland wants his players to set the tone for how they must approach world rugby's most demanding assignment next month in Sunday's clash against RBS 6 Nations champions England at Twickenham.

Wales face a third trip of the season to English rugby headquarters, having beaten England during last autumn's World Cup, but then suffered Six Nations misery following a lamentable first-half display 11 weeks ago.

The Test match is viewed as ideal preparation for Wales ahead of facing a three-Test series against the world champion All Blacks in New Zealand, with England tackling Australia Down Under at the same time.

"Well over a year ago now, I spoke to Stuart Lancaster (former England head coach) about a potential game before going on tour," Gatland said.

"Sometimes, you go to the southern hemisphere and play in the first Test match and guys hadn't played for four or five weeks, so we just felt this was a game to try to get us up to speed to what we were going to encounter in the southern hemisphere.

"This was purely a rugby decision - nothing about commercial, nothing about trying to make money. It was a rugby decision based on how do we potentially prepare ourselves in the best possible way for a southern hemisphere tour.

"Because there is not the pressure and hype of the Six Nations, I think both of us will go out on Sunday and look to be positive and play some rugby. To be honest, we are going to have to in the southern hemisphere, both of us.

"You just can't go out there (southern hemisphere) and try to play 10-man rugby and shut up shop. You have got to be able to go out there, back your ability, back your skills and score tries. As soon as you go to those countries with a negative frame of mind, you are wasting your time."

Ospreys flanker Dan Lydiate will lead Wales this weekend in Sam Warburton's absence, with Warburton recovering from a shoulder injury suffered last month, although he is expected to be fit for Wales' opening appointment with New Zealand in Auckland on June 11.

Gatland has made five changes from the side beaten 25-21 by England in March, with starts for centre Scott Williams, wing Hallam Amos, scrum-half Rhys Webb, lock Jake Ball and flanker Ross Moriarty.

Lydiate moves from blindside to the openside position instead of Warburton, with Gloucester forward Moriarty wearing Wales' number six shirt. Williams, meanwhile, has not played Test rugby since he suffered a serious knee injury during Wales' World Cup victory over England at Twickenham last September.

And lock Alun Wyn Jones is back after recovering from a long-standing foot problem, winning his 99th cap on Sunday. Jones, who has not played since the England Six Nations clash on March 12, will pack down alongside Ball in the second-row.

Gatland added: "Mentally, we have got to be right on Sunday. We've discussed that. We just did not get off the bus in that first 40 minutes (in the Six Nations). We've accepted that and acknowledged that.

"We are well aware for the first 40 minutes in the Six Nations we didn't throw anything at them. We could have won the game, and five minutes longer, we would have won the game.

"It was interesting to see (England full-back) Mike Brown come up to us afterwards and say he could see it happening again (Wales came from behind to beat England in the World Cup). There are obviously a few demons with some of their players to be worried about that.

"There is some ability in us to be able to crank up some pressure on them, hopefully physically, and as much mentally as well."

Gatland, meanwhile, reported Warburton is building solidly towards the New Zealand tour.

"When he did the injury, the medics were saying he probably won't be right for England, but the first Test against the All Blacks is two weeks after," Gatland said. "He has been training his butt off and keeping himself right.

"Even though he hasn't had a lot of rugby, there is going to be no question about his condition.

"He is probably a little bit more worried that his wife is due (to give birth) three weeks (after the tour).

"If she does have the baby prematurely, he might have to get on a plane to come back. We are trying to keep him relaxed and say that doesn't normally happen on a first child, but if that does happen, we are going to have to deal with it in a positive way."


From Belfast Telegraph