Jones begins mind games, opts for open roof in Wales

LONDON • Eddie Jones sold Wales a dummy over the Principality Stadium roof by insisting on Thursday that it must be open when they meet in the Six Nations Championship today.

The England head coach had maintained an air of indifference over the roof all week, claiming that he did not particularly care whether it was open but that he welcomed the hostile atmosphere that is enhanced by closing it.

"The louder it is, the better it is," he had said.

That led Wales to believe that they could close the roof for the game. The Welsh had always wanted to play indoors and asked Six Nations officials before the tournament began if the rules could be changed and brought into line with the World Cup, where the default position is for all retractable roofs to be closed. However, that request was rejected and Six Nations regulations require both teams to agree on closing the roof, with Wales to be informed of the decision at least 48 hours before the match.

Jones, having lured Wales into thinking the game would be played in the conditions they favour, changed tack and announced shortly before the deadline that England wanted the roof to remain open.

"It's not my decision to make whether it increases the atmosphere or not. I'm not an entertainer, I'm a coach," he said. "The decision (was) made on what I think is the best thing for the team to win."

The move will be welcomed by rugby traditionalists who have long insisted that adapting to potentially adverse weather conditions is one of the key aspects of the game.

On paper, any wind and rain in the Welsh capital today ought to favour Six Nations Grand Slam champions England, whose game is based on set-piece dominance.

Wales beat England under a closed roof in 2013 but lost to their arch-rivals when it was kept open two years ago.

England will be looking to extend a national record run of 15 straight Test victories after last week's 19-16 win over France in Twickenham. But it is Wales who are the early pacesetters in the Six Nations, following a 33-7 win away to Italy.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WALES V ENGLAND

Singtel TV Ch110, tomorrow, 12.40am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2017, with the headline 'Jones begins mind games, opts for open roof in Wales'. Print Edition | Subscribe