Eddie Jones has demanded his players block out coronavirus concerns and focus instead on delivering Six Nations payback to Wales.
Confirmation that England’s final game against Italy had fallen victim to the crisis came as Jones named his side to take on Wales tomorrow.
With Ireland-Italy this weekend already off it means the last two rounds are disrupted and a champion will only be crowned on time if unbeaten leaders France win their two, as yet unaffected, games.
Against this chaotic backdrop Jones has attempted to impose some order by telling his team to focus on the one thing they can control – beating Wales and avenging last year’s painful defeat.
“We owe them one,” said the Australian. “You never like to lose to Wales, and we lost last year. It’s a game that I’m sure every player who played in it is still irked about. It certainly irks me.”
England let slip a 10-3 halftime lead at the Principality Stadium, losing first their composure then the match to Grand Slam-bound opponents.
Twelve months on and with coronavirus cases in the UK topping 100 and reports of panic buying in supermarkets, Jones admits he has had to work hard to keep players’ focus purely on the game.
“There’s a lot of noise,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure they don’t listen to the noise. The only thing they can control is their performance against Wales.
“So we are not paying any attention to anything post-Saturday. You don’t have discussions about further down the track because there might not be a further down the track for any of us.”
Tomorrow's occasion will be heightened by the likelihood that for Japan-bound George Kruis and coach Steve Borthwick, who joins Leicester after the championship, Wales' visit will mark their final Twickenham appearance for England.
Jones claimed his squad were already on track after naming Mark Wilson to start at openside, due to a training injury suffered by Sam Underhill, and Anthony Watson on the wing in place of Jonathan Joseph.
“We’ve had probably our best training run of the Six Nations,” he said. “Not far underneath where we were at the World Cup in terms of physical condition and intensity.
“I just said to the boys, ‘we want to play rugby where the 80,000 fans will come back regardless of what’s going on’. That’s the level of intensity, energy and accuracy we want to play with.
“Obviously Wales want to stop us doing that. They'll come hard at us. They've got a new coach and they’ll want to make a statement. So it’s going to be a grand battle.”
Wayne Pivac, the newbie in question, has sprung a surprise by dropping No.8 Taulupe Faletau and scrum-half Gareth Davies – and including fly-half Dan Biggar, who badly hyper-extended his knee only six days ago.
In all Wales make four changes, with Liam Williams returning on the wing after four months out.
Source: Read Full Article