'New' England aim for twin targets by beating Wales

England coach Eddie Jones watching captain Dylan Hartley during training. The hooker and other senior players want a 'substantial' trophy before they retire.
England coach Eddie Jones watching captain Dylan Hartley during training. The hooker and other senior players want a 'substantial' trophy before they retire.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • The remorseless ticking of the clock on a professional rugby career, as much as a desire for World Cup revenge, will fuel Six Nations leaders England's bid to beat Wales at Twickenham today, according to captain Dylan Hartley.

Not since their World Cup-winning year of 2003 have England won a Grand Slam, while it is five years since they were last crowned Six Nations champions.

Both a clean sweep and the title are in England's sights and, for the 29-year-old Hartley, a veteran of 69 Tests, now is not the time to merely go close again.

Victory over Wales, whose 28-25 World Cup pool win at Twickenham in September did much to ensure hosts England's early exit from the tournament, coupled with Scotland beating France at Murrayfield tomorrow, would give Hartley's men the title in their first season under renowned Australian coach Eddie Jones.

"The scariest thing for me is looking back on my England career, having not won something substantial," said the New Zealand-born hooker Hartley.

"All of the older guys are scared that we'll walk away without winning something. We're running out of time."

Both England and Wales will field unchanged starting XVs following wins over Ireland (21-10) and France (19-10) respectively last time out.

England, however, will have the option of bringing fit-again powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi off the bench in the second half to test a Wales midfield where Jamie Roberts has been an immovable object in defence, if not always an irresistible force in attack, in this Six Nations Championship.

"He has power and pace and that innate rugby sense," said Jones. "We've told Manu to just run."

Jones' starting XV features eight survivors from the World Cup loss to Wales but he insisted that revenge was not on the agenda.

"We are a new England," the 56-year-old said. "We have a new philosophy to how we train, how we think and how we play."

The battle between childhood friends Billy Vunipola (England) and Taulupe Faletau (Wales), the two form No. 8s of the tournament, will be one of several intriguing match-ups.

Neither England nor Wales have hit the heights in attack this season. And, with Jones accusing the Welsh of "illegal" scrummaging, only for the visitors to answer in kind with comments about home prop Joe Marler, it is easy to see where both teams think the match will be decided.

Wales, who would also be chasing a Grand Slam but for an opening draw with champions Ireland, are very much in the title hunt and coach Warren Gatland said: "I think both teams have got very strong defences.

"We won't be throwing the ball all over the place, we will be pretty direct."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline ''New' England aim for twin targets by beating Wales'. Print Edition | Subscribe