Eddie Jones has said England “owe Wales one” after their painful defeat in Cardiff last year as they prepare for Saturday’s resumption of old rivalries at Twickenham.
France are the only team left in the Six Nations who can complete a Grand Slam but England could yet be crowned champions if Les Bleus stumble in the final two rounds.
For Wales, it is about preventing a third straight defeat after losing to Ireland and France, but they do have the confidence of last season’s 21-13 victory in Cardiff on the way to their own Grand Slam.
“You’ve got to remember they beat us last year so we owe them one,” said Jones after naming his team to play Wales on Thursday.
“They’ve lost two games in a row. They’ve got a new coach and they’ll want to make a statement on Saturday.
“Traditionally our games are very close so they’ll come with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy.”
Liam Williams is set for a high-profile return to rugby following several months out of action after being named by Wales coach Wayne Pivac.
Williams, who recently rejoined the Scarlets from English champions Saracens, has not played since Wales beat World Cup quarter-final opponents France on October 20, suffering an ankle injury in training a few days later.
But he will start on the wing in place of the injured Josh Adams as reigning champions Wales look to avoid losing three successive Six Nations matches for the first time since 2007, with Pivac making four changes to the team beaten 27-23 by France last time out.
Back row forward Josh Navidi returns from injury to like Williams make his first appearance of the campaign with Tomos Williams and Rob Evans also both named in the starting side.
England’s Six Nations game with Italy in Rome on March 14 has been postponed due to concerns over the coronavirus.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) March 5, 2020
“Liam’s return to full fitness is a positive after the loss of Josh (Adams), as is the return of Josh Navidi,” said Pivac.
“We have been targeting this game for both of their returns and they have trained really well so it’s a great opportunity for them on Saturday.”
Flyhalf Dan Biggar has been named in the starting line-up despite an injury scare when he went off early in his club Northampton’s Premiership defeat by Saracens last Saturday.
Fellow veteran and captain Alun Wyn Jones passes another landmark when he will become his country’s most capped player in the Six Nations with 57.
Pivac has had a tough first campaign as national coach since filling the huge vacuum left by fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland.
Successive defeats by Ireland – which ended hopes of a repeat Grand Slam – and France have left them with only an outside chance of the title.
However, he is pleased with the way training has gone ahead of the challenging trip to Twickenham where their last win in the Six Nations came in 2012.
“We had a good two weeks and we are really excited about heading up to Twickenham for what will be a huge Six Nations clash,” said Pivac.
Bit of a shake up by Pivac. Still comes in at 839 caps, only 20 down on record v France…. pic.twitter.com/JH0hFzw5vG
— Leighton Price (@leighton_price) March 5, 2020
“We have had the chance to put the disappointments of the loss to France behind us and we know heading to London we need to be more clinical in attack and convert the opportunities that we are creating.”
Jones has made two changes to the side that beat Ireland 24-12 last time out, recalling wing Anthony Watson and back-row Mark Wilson for their first international appearances since England’s World Cup final defeat by South Africa in November.
Watson has recovered from a calf problem while Wilson, who has made only one start for Sale since knee surgery, replaces the injured Sam Underhill.
“Anthony trained really well. We haven’t seen much of him but he’s come back in and is fully fit and ready to go,” Jones said.
“Mark’s had a hard route. He was great for us during the World Cup. He’s a terrific team man.”
Jones was speaking at before it was announced that England’s Six Nations finale against Italy in Rome on March 14 had been postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus.
England decided against having Mako Vunipola, who recently flew back from Tonga via Hong Kong, in their camp as a precaution against the coronavirus although the prop is set to play for Saracens this weekend.
15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Curry, 7 Mark Wilson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler
Reps: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Charlie Ewels, 21 Ben Earl, 22 Willi Heinz, 23 Henry Slade
15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Reps: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Johnny McNicholl