Wednesday 12 December 2018

Jones piles the pressure on 'third-choice' Patchell

Jonathan Joseph Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Jonathan Joseph Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Mick Cleary

Eddie Jones has ignited the build-up to England's Six Nations clash with Wales by thrusting Rhys Patchell under the spotlight.

Jones has piled the pressure on to the inexperienced 24-year-old Welsh fly-half, who will be winning his seventh cap in the absence of injured playmakers Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland.

Patchell was influential in last weekend's 34-7 rout of Scotland in Cardiff, but injury-hit Wales were widely written off leading into that match and Jones insists England at Twickenham are a different threat.

"Every time Rhys Patchell looks up, he's going to see Jonathan Joseph in his vision - it's not a great sight," Jones said.

"Wales have to get the ball wide and Patchell hasn't played much Test-match rugby. He's a young guy, he's inexperienced and is their third-choice 10.

"He's got to get the ball wide and that's going to be a big job. It will be different to playing against Scotland.

"Scotland couldn't cope with the expectation and now he's got to cope with the expectation of playing well.

"Patchell will have to find guys around him to help because he'll be under some heat.

"Wales played really well against Scotland but it's going to be different on Saturday - they had no expectation on them last Saturday but this week they come full of expectation.

"Everyone has been telling them how well they played. (Wales coach) Warren Gatland's been talking a lot this week. He's confident. They're confident."

It is the first time Jones has sought to engage Wales in verbal hostilities ahead of the eagerly-awaited showdown between rivals who completed convincing victories in round one.

Gatland stated earlier in the week that England's six-day turnaround following their 46-15 demolition of Italy would count against them, but Jones used yesterday's team announcement press conference to hit back.

"I can remember 18 or 24 months ago someone at the Rugby Football Union, whose name I don't recollect at the moment, coming in and saying, 'You play Italy on Sunday and Wales on Saturday, is that OK?"' Jones said.

"No problem, that's the draw, that's how we prepare for it. So we've had 18 months to prepare for this turnaround."

England have made two changes to their starting XV against Wales, with Joseph replacing Ben Te'o at outside centre and Danny Care coming in for the injured Ben Youngs at scrum-half.

Jones has also lodged a complaint with World Rugby over the conduct of Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones towards referee Pascal Gauzere in Cardiff last Saturday.

Jones objects to the way in which Jones stood in front of Finn Russell to prevent the Scotland fly-half from converting Peter Horne's late try while the TMO reviewed the score.

Elsewhere, Gregor Townsend has made six changes from last week's defeat to Wales to play France on Sunday. Former skipper Greig Laidlaw has been recalled as well as centre Peter Horne, wing Sean Maitland, prop Simon Berghan, lock Grant Gilchrist and No 8 Ryan Wilson.

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