By Tom Jenkins
England legend Martin Johnson has told Wales they must be brave if they are have a chance of beating England at Twickenham.
As coach Wayne Pivac considers some bold selection calls for Saturday’s Six Nations clash – including throwing in teenager Louis Rees-Zammit and recalling Liam Williams – Johnson reckons fortune will favour the brave.
The former World Cup-winning captain believes Wales are better than their recent run of successive defeats to Ireland and France suggests, but insists they will only succeed with a positive mindset.
Pivac is due to name his team at lunchtime on Thursday, with doubts over the fitness of Dan Biggar and George North.
That could lead to a recall for Williams, who has not played since October, and a possible shock debut for Rees-Zammit, the Gloucester wing who turned 19 last month.
Talking about Wales’ chances of winning at Twickenham for the first time since the 2015 World Cup, Johnson said: “It depends how they react to it [the defeat against France].
“If they come out at Twickenham thinking, ‘We’ve got players injured and we’re this and we’re that and we can’t win the title’, then you’ll probably get beat.
“If you go out thinking, ‘We’ve got 15, they’ve got 15, let’s put them under pressure’, then you’ll have a chance. It’s all about how they approach it, what their attitude is to it.
“The same with England. England have got to come out with the same intent they did against Ireland and put them away. If you get ahead at home, it is difficult for away sides to come back.
“From a neutral’s point of view, you probably want England to go ahead early and make a game of it. The joy of people being inconsistent is that you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Wales nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback from 27-16 down in their 27-24 loss to France last time out and Johnson added: “Wales played to the last second, on another day they come back and win that game, which I thought they still would do with about 20 minutes to go.
“They’re not that far away, in saying that they’ve got a couple of defeats. When you saw the sort of cold stats of them losing to Ireland you thought, ‘Wow that’s a bit of a hiding’, but it wasn’t really, they didn’t play that badly, they had their opportunities.
“It’s pretty close, that’s the good thing about the tournament, it’s pretty tight and you’ve just got to go and win your games.
“Hopefully England-Wales is a classic, I hope it’s a classic really ferocious, energetic, fast game and both teams really get into it and there’s a good ebb and flow of the game, scores from both teams and ultimately England win.
“If Wales can win it, it can put their second half of a tournament in a better perspective. A win at Twickenham for anyone is a good victory and England will be desperate not to lose at home and to win the game because they’ve still got a sniff of the title if Scotland can do everyone a favour.”
Wales have not tasted victory at Twickenham in the Six Nations since 2012 and Ireland were overwhelmed 24-12 there in the last round two weeks after securing a bonus-point victory against Wales in Dublin.
But Wales and Dragons flanker Ross Moriarty – who was born in St. Helens and played for England at under-18 and under-20 level – insists the reigning champions are determined to meet England head on.
“If you do not match England physically, you have no chance,” said Moriarty.
“We have to go and meet them in their backyard as a pack and as a backline. They pride themselves on having a big and physical pack with a few big backs, so we know what is coming. Getting stuck into people is my bread and butter and I will be looking to do that from the start.
“The first 20 minutes are key, especially when you are playing away from home. You want to put down a marker and keep the crowd quiet. It is not nice when someone comes into your home and ruffles your feathers.
“It has been disappointing to lose our last two games but France was a game that could have gone either way. There were a number of positives for us and we are looking to build on them.”