Aside from questioning the temperament of Rhys Patchell and the integrity of Alun Wyn Jones, England coach Eddie Jones has also promised Wales a “ferocious” defence at Twickenham on Saturday.
Jones was nonplussed by Wales 34-7 opening Six Nations victory over Scotland. He had already suggested the Scots were fragile before the tournament began and his repeated view of Wales at his pre-match briefing was that they went into that Test with “no pressure of expectation.”
The Australian has also promised a far more formidable defence from England than the Scots managed and vowed: “Wales will try and play a particular way but in terms of winning the game we want to make sure our set piece is dominant and our defence is ferocious.
“We want to be an adaptable team and to be able to play to the conditions, referee and game as sometimes the game controls you.”
England have made two changes to the side that opened their NatWest 6 Nations campaign with a victory over Italy in Rome.
Danny Care (Harlequins) starts at half back and will become England’s most capped scrum half (78), moving past 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson.
Jonathan Joseph comes in for Ben Te’o at outside centre and Jones has backed the experience Bath man to have an impact against Wales centre pairing of Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams.
“It’s a gut feeling on my behalf, Ben worked really hard to get back fit (after a lengthy injury lay off), but experience tells me sometimes in their second game back players are a little bit flat,” said Jones.
“JJ has been in good form in training. He’s powerful, quick and will defend well.
“He can do a job for us from the start and Ben will come and give us power and impetus, just as he did last week.”
Care will become England’s most capped scrum half (78), moving past 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson.
“It’s very pleasing, his career has flourished, he deserves the honour and I’m sure he’ll make the most of it on Saturday,” said Jones.
But Jones had less regard for another Test veteran – Wales and Lions lock Jones, about whom he claimed to have reported a complaint to World Rugby.
Jones objected to an incident late in the game against Scotland in Cardiff last Saturday where his namesake stood in front of Finn Russell, to prevent the Scotland fly-half from converting Peter Horne’s late try, while the television match official reviewed the score.
Russell was aware that there might have been an infringement so rushed to take the conversion, only for the Wales lock to effectively block the kick as he strode towards referee Pascal Gauzere.
The England coach accused the Wales captain of failing to “respect the integrity of the referee”.
“I thought that was right out of order. When he tried to stop the referee from allowing the kick at goal – we can’t have that in the game,” he said.
“That’s borrowed from another sport and I really hope World Rugby doesn’t allow that to creep into the game because it shouldn’t be part of the game. ”All we say is just to be respectful. At times players lose their cool, but that was a contrived bit of behaviour,” said Jones.
“It’s not great for the game and I’ve said something to World Rugby about it, I feel that strongly. ”We’ve got to respect the integrity of the referee in the game because we’ve got one of the most difficult games to referee. And the game only gets more complex.
”It doesn’t get any easier. There’s more density around the ball. The players are bigger, faster and stronger. There’s quicker decisions from the referee to make.”
Jones also questioned the ability of Patchell to repeat the sort of composed performance the Scarlets outside-half showed on his first start in a Wales No.10 shirt last weekend.
“Patchell is a young guy, he’s inexperienced and he’s their third-choice 10,” said Jones. “Who’s Patchell going to look to [for support]? He hasn’t got a lot of experience inside or outside him. That’s a big task for him. I’d imagine that when Alun Wyn Jones and the Wales guys go down for breakfast on Saturday morning they’ll be looking at him thinking, ‘Can this kid handle the pressure today?’ It’s a big ask. He’s going to be under some heat.
“Patchell hasn’t played much Test-match rugby [six caps in five years]. He’s got to get the ball wide and that’s going to be a big job for him. It’s going to be different to playing against Scotland. They couldn’t cope with the expectation and now he’s got to cope with the expectation of playing well.
“Playing in front of that Twickenham crowd with boys like [Sam] Simmonds and [Chris] Robshaw and [Owen] Farrell running at him, it will be one hell of an experience for the kid. When it gets a bit cut and thrust, nip and tuck, this will be a proper Test match. Then we will see if he has the bottle to handle it.”