Eddie Jones will spend this week focusing on the psychological side of England’s trip to Wales as he looks to address their poor record of playing their rivals in Cardiff.
Jones’ England are on a 15-match unbeaten run, but straight after their victory over France, he turned attention to their next match against Wales and said he was surprised by their win record in Cardiff.
Of the 61 Wales-England matches played on Welsh turf, the home side have won 36. It is a record Jones labels “horrendous” from an England perspective and he will speak to a number of folk this week to determine why they are “petrified” of playing across the Severn Bridge.
“I can’t work out why the record of England in Wales is so poor. I’m sure they have [had good teams down the years], but they are a country of three million people,” Jones said.
“I think psychologically you have got to get it right when you are playing Wales in Wales. There seems to be some sort of thing there, no one can tell me why the English are petrified of playing Wales in Wales.
“We will work out what has been done in the past and make sure that we don’t do it. I will talk to a few blokes to figure out what the problem is and why the record is so horrendous because it is horrendous.”
Jones said he has a solution to the problem but refused to share it but he knows full well what it is like to lose in Cardiff from his days in charge of the Wallabies. Back in 2005 he took his Australia side to face Mike Ruddock’s Wales and lost 24-22. It proved to be his final match as Wallabies coach.
His England predecessor Stuart Lancaster prepared his side for their 2015 trip to Wales by booming out Welsh hymns during training and it worked as they won 21-16 — a match which started with the tunnel standoff where Chris Robshaw refused to lead his England side out until Wales were ready.
Jones is unlikely to adopt that ear-bashing method of musical preparation and instead wants the Welsh crowd to be as vocal as possible.
“They can have fireworks going off,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter. It’s the same for both teams. The louder and more rowdy it is, the better it is. Those are the games you want to win.
“It is an amazing atmosphere, how could you not want to play rugby there? It is one of the greatest rugby countries in the world so to play Wales in Cardiff with that sort of atmosphere is one of the great delights of rugby. Obviously it has been difficult for the English to cope with it so we need to find a way where they see it as being a delightful.”
England fly-half George Ford played there back in 2015 and he is relishing the chance to experience the Cardiff atmosphere again.
“When you look back, if someone asks where are the best places you’ve played, you would say the Millennium Stadium, for the atmosphere and everything that comes with it,” Ford said. “The scale of the game; you are playing Wales, and Wales and England don’t particularly like each other, so it is exciting.”
Jones will also address the way he prepared the team for their win over France in a bid to ensure they start the match in Wales at a higher pace and intensity.
He will weigh up changes to the team this week but James Haskell looks set for another impact role from the bench as he continues his bid to return to full fitness after a lengthy spell out and Jones feels the replacements will be a deciding factor in Saturday’s match.
“Well, it’s a game of 23,” Jones said. “That’s the way the game is. We pick people specifically to finish the game for us. I think we’ve got a very good bench.
“Wales are a team who pride themselves on fitness and they like to have the ball in play. We believe we can get them in the last 20.”