Sport Rugby

Sunday 23 July 2017

Johnson warns players 'spots on plane at stake'

Mick Cleary

England need a win at the Millennium Stadium this afternoon for reasons of morale and momentum; Wales crave one for their very World Cup credibility.

If the stakes appear different for the two sides then Martin Johnson was quick to acknowledge yesterday that his job is to convince England that they need to be as desperate for victory as Wales.

The England manager, though, is not so hell-bent on success that he will take a risk on Chris Ashton, who faces a fitness test this morning on the ankle he rolled in training on Thursday.

Far more pressing for Johnson is ensuring that his team take the field with the attitude of the damned, such as that which drove Ireland to victory in Dublin in March, when they emphatically denied England a Grand Slam.

Wales, with only one win in their past eight home matches, are not quite on their uppers, but another defeat would leave their World Cup prospects looking decidedly threadbare.

"We want to go to New Zealand with the sound of our fans ringing in our ears," said head coach Warren Gatland, aware that the threshold between cheers and jeers could be calamitous if crossed.

England need to generate their own heat and noise, to imbue themselves with the fervour of the locals.

"This is a game that gets the blood flowing," Johnson said. "The more intense the better. The guys don't need to read a barrage of articles in the papers to understand that there are starting jerseys in the World Cup as well as spots on the plane to New Zealand at stake. They are all desperate to go out and play."

England have come equipped for battle, showing 13 changes from the side who beat Wales 23-19 at Twickenham last weekend, and are now fielding close to their strongest line-up.

Wales make four changes, choosing a backline with venomous potential, but they still lack heavyweight clout up front. If they are to prosper, then their forwards will have to rise to the occasion for that blend behind of quicksilver darters and muscular thrusters such as Gavin Henson and Jamie Roberts to hold sway. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Wales -- J Hook; G North, J Roberts, G Henson, Shane Williams; R Priestland, M Phillips; P James, L Burns, C Mitchell, L Charteris, A-W Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton, T Faletau. Reps: H Bennett, R Bevington, J Turnbull, J Tipuric, T Knoyle, Scott Williams, A Brew.

England -- B Foden; C Ashton, M Tindall, S Hape, M Cueto; T Flood, R Wigglesworth; A Corbisiero, S Thompson, D Cole, L Deacon, C Lawes, T Wood, H Fourie, N Easter. Reps: L Mears, M Stevens, T Palmer, J Haskell, D Care, C Hodgson, M Banahan.

REF -- A Rolland (Ireland).

Wales v England,

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