Josh Navidi believes Wales can do a clinical job against England at Twickenham on Saturday – almost as clinical as the precautions the squad have followed this week in order to stay healthy.
With the coronavirus now having a deep impact on sport – and in particular a significant effect on the Six Nations – Navidi has revealed that extra measures have been followed within the squad to avoid any possible contagion.
As Premier League footballers have been ordered to stop handshaking and high-fiving, with games in Europe being played behind closed doors, or postponed altogether like the tournament’s Ireland v Italy and Italy v England fixtures, then it’s clear the effects are growing day-by-day.
Navidi – who has been recalled to the Wales team at No.8 in place on Taulupe Faletau – says: “It’s just general cleanliness with sanitation – making sure we wash our hands and that when we cough, we cough into a tissue.
“Everyone knows that’s going on, so hopefully we can keep that virus away.
“It’s a global thing now and obviously down to governments to decide which games are going to be played. It’s nothing to do with players anymore. If games do get postponed, then we will just take it as it comes.
“We’re still going forward with games at the moment, but it would certainly feel more like a training game if matches ended up being played behind closed doors.”
Thank you Rosemary Reynolds for sending me the drawings….can’t believe how good they are!!!! pic.twitter.com/KDKmPt9rS7
— Josh Navidi (@Jnavidi) December 20, 2019
Navidi suffered a hamstring injury playing for the Cardiff Blues that put the 29-year-old of contention for the opening game of the tournament against Italy.
He has remained around the camp and gets his opportunity at Twickenham after Faletau’s low key display against France and the slight knock the Bath player suffered playing for his club last weekend.
Nor is he the only one to be thrust back into the highest profile fixture possible, as Liam Williams is playing his first game on the wing since the World Cup last October.
Navidi adds: “It’s been nice training with the boys again and back in this environment. I have been around during this Six Nations, but it was frustrating to pick up my hamstring injury in the first week ahead of the Italy game.
“But I’m back and looking forward to it. I’m chomping at the bit to get back now and what a game to come back to – England – I can’t wait to get to Twickenham.
“I don’t think it’s a gamble to come back into this game. I’ve done it a few times in the past. In summer before the World Cup, I hadn’t played for a while but came back from a hamstring injury. I was on the bench against England in August and then came on within 20 minutes.
“You do all the fitness, but until you actually play then you don’t really know where you are. But I’m really eager to play as I’m sure Liam is. He hasn’t played since the French game in the World Cup, but we’re both now ready to go.”
England’s back row has won widespread credit over the past few months, although injuries and the tinkering undertaken by coach Eddie Jones – which has included shifting Tom Curry from flanker to No.8 – has also led to a loss of continuity.
Against Wales, Jones has gone a back three of Curry at No.8, with Courtney Lawes at blindside flanker and the recalled Mark Wilson at openside.
Navidi still believes it is a formidable unit – but one which he, Ross Moriarty and Justin Tipuric can get the better of on what he hopes will be a dry, fast surface.
“They are physical, they are good over the ball, and they’ve got some good carriers there so they will be dynamic as a back row.
“It will be a challenging contest but I’m looking forward to it. We want to get a high ball in play time and just enjoy moving the ball about in some dry weather.
“England have only lost one game so it will be an interesting one. This is always an edgy week because the opponent is just across the bridge. A lot of the buzz comes from the fans, but we just make sure we take care of ourselves.
“It’s been tough for the boys – losing out in Ireland and then to France at home. We gave away too many opportunities against the French. The game was there to grasp and we let it slip.
“So, the boys are still hurting but we’re looking forward to putting that right against England. It will be nice to finish off with two wins.”
Wales coach Wayne Pivac beleives he has made the right call in bringing back Navidi and is hopeful he can make as big an impact on Jones and he did on Steve Hansen two years ago.
“Josh Navidi is a fantastic player over the ball,” says Pivac.
“It’s the breakdown work that he does, his defensive work and ball-carrying too. When he played for Wales against New Zealand Steve Hansen asked who he was because so impressed with him.
“He is a tough character and is someone that puts a lot of pressure on the opposition. If you look at the Six Nations match last year he played a massive role in that win for Wales and he plays well in big games.
“He’s stood up and played in some very big matches for us so we’re confident he can do that again.”