By Graham Thomas
Gareth Thomas insists Wales will go at England with “all guns blazing” on Saturday
despite shooting themselves in the foot in an extraordinary build-up to their Six
The Ospreys prop admits he has never been involved in preparation as badly
focused as the lead in to what is always the biggest game in the Welsh calendar.
There was only one topic of conversation in the team room, at meal times and
with roommates in the hotel and it was not how England’s pack was set-up for a
defensive line-out near their own 22.
“Yeah, the dispute has pretty much dominated things away from the training
field,” says Thomas, ahead of the Wales v England clash which is live on S4C.
“We had lots of player meetings, a couple of hours in a room together, and it’s
been dominating the topic of conversation.
“It was definitely frustrating for everyone, really. But everyone stayed together as
a whole squad. Some of those senior boys have nothing to gain by doing what
we’ve done in this last week.
“But it just shows us how tight we are as a group of players and how much we
stay together. We’re all on the same page and it’s good as a player group, from all
four regions, that we’ve all been together.”
Wales Rugby Team Overcomes Internal Dispute to Focus on Beating England
The extent of the disruption was clear on Tuesday of this week, when head coach
Warren Gatland shelved a planned training session for the afternoon so that the
players could try and bring the dispute to an end.
The following day – a day off from training when the squad members normally
retreat back to their homes and relax – was spent in hours of tense negotiations
with the Welsh Rugby Union.
Only by Thursday morning, the final full day of training, were Wales able to have
their minds solely on the job of beating England.
“It’s a time to deliver every time you put on the Wales jersey so we are going all
guns blazing for this weekend and really looking forward to it,” says Thomas, who
will win his 19th cap.
“For me, Wales v England is the best game you can play. And so I don’t need any
added motivation going out there and delivering the big performance against
Warren Gatland has insisted Wales need no extra motivation heading into Saturday's Six Nations match against England after a week of off-field disruption over player contract issues. https://t.co/39RlmGrW7H
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) February 24, 2023
Wales Must Reduce Penalty Count To Secure First Victory of the Tournament
Thomas admits that when matters turn to the field of play at kick-off time, then
Wales have to reduce the huge penalty count they conceded in defeat to both
Ireland and Scotland if they are to have any chance of gaining their first victory of
Welsh referee Ben Whitehouse was drafted in this week to assist Wales with
interpretations at the tackle area as they seek to stay on the right side of the law
“Discipline in defence has been a big focus for us in training,” adds Thomas, who
was part of the Ospreys side that won away at Leicester in the Heineken
Champions Cup earlier this season.
“But we believe we can get that right and have enough to beat England. We think
we can go toe-to-toe with the best packs in Europe, so we are looking forward to
putting the pressure on.
“I don’t think our scrum went very well against Ireland, so we really want to make
up for that.”
England Head Coach Borthwick Shows Sympathy for Wales’ Plight While Plotting Their Downfall
England head coach Steve Borthwick sympathises with the plight of Wales’
players – while also plotting their downfall.
England have made one change to their starting XV, with Anthony Watson
replacing knee injury victim Ollie Hassell-Collins on the left wing.
There are two adjustments to the bench, where Courtney Lawes makes a first
appearance since leading the July tour to Australia having recovered from
concussion, while Ben Curry also returns in anticipation of his second cap.
England’s quest for a maiden away win under Borthwick and first victory at the
Principality Stadium since 2017 was in danger of not taking place because of the
threat of a strike.
Steve Borthwick admitted having sympathy for England's Six Nations opponents this weekend but he is still plotting their downfall https://t.co/auQdDmBoiC
— PA Sport (@pasport) February 23, 2023
“Myself and everybody with the England team, we have incredible sympathy for
what the Welsh players have gone through,” Borthwick said.
“No player, no professional athlete, should have to deal with that level of
uncertainty and anxiety. We really sympathise with them.
“From our point of view, we’ve focused on the game and being the best prepared
team we possibly can be. Other stuff we can’t control, so we just concentrate on
what we can do.
“To be part of a fixture like this, it’s terrific. We embrace it and we can’t wait to
get down to Cardiff. There has been a buzz around training all week.”
S4C: Saturday – 4.00pm: Clwb Rygbi Rhyngwladol – Wales v England
Live coverage of Wales v England in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations. K/O 4.45pm.