Sport Six Nations

Thursday 18 July 2019

Gatland relishing Welsh showdown with Jones

Gatland will clearly not take it easy on his players. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire
Gatland will clearly not take it easy on his players. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire

James Corrigan

As if Wales versus England needed any more hype. The only two unbeaten teams will meet at the Principality Stadium on Saturday week and Warren Gatland is already looking to paint his men as the huge underdogs.

Certainly, it was possible to do exactly that after their stuttering 26-15 victory over Italy in Rome on Saturday. Gatland made 10 changes from the team that beat France and tries from Josh Adams and Owen Watkin, plus 14 points from Dan Biggar, sealed victory.

However, there was a definite sense of disjointedness as they stretched their winning run to a record-equalling 11 matches.

The likes of Alun-Wyn Jones, George North and Justin Tipuric will no doubt return and Gatland will expect Wales to be infinitely sharper.

The chance to cast themselves apart in Welsh rugby history with 12 on the bounce will be just the start of it.

"Everyone before the start of the tournament thought that the decider might come down to that last game with Ireland, but obviously now there are just two of us still in with a chance for a Grand Slam and the Triple Crown as well, so there will be no lack of motivation," Gatland said.

"It will be electric in the Principality Stadium. Once you are on a run like this, you don't want it to go. The nice thing is, we have two weeks together in the build-up to England, and we are excited about it. We have a few things to work on, which is always pleasing."

Gatland will clearly not take it easy on his players and will use the perceived might of Eddie Jones's side to rouse his squad and this does appear the perfect time for the shrewd Kiwi to evoke the David and Goliath images.

"We have probably helped ourselves a little by not playing as well as we could have and, as a result, everyone will start talking England up and sometimes that's easier to help motivate yourself if that does happen," Gatland said.

"But for us to get two victories and two away wins is an outstanding start. Things are in our own hands, with two big home games to come."

For Italy head coach Conor O'Shea, it was an all-too-familiar story after a 19th successive Six Nations defeat.

"We aren't giving up, we're excited about the future of this team," O'Shea said. "If we continue to work, I believe we are going to overturn that difference with the others. We've lost another battle but we are still in the war." (© The Daily Telegraph, London).

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