Warren Gatland Reminds England He Has Good Reasons To Love Twickenham

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 3: Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland during the pre match warm up during the Guinness Six Nations 2024 match between Wales and Scotland at Principality Stadium on February 3, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Warren Gatland Reminds England He Has Good Reasons To Love Twickenham

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By David Williams

Taking his Wales team to Twickenham won’t hold any fears for Warren Gatland.

He has nothing but good memories of games at the home of English rugby, having won titles with both club and country at the 82,000-seater venue.

And with England players calling on the crowd to get behind them in Round 2 of the Six Nations this weekend to make life even more difficult for the young Welsh side, Gatland is looking to instil confidence in his group.

“The first four times I went there we won three Premiership finals and a Heineken Cup final with Wasps. I don’t find it intimidating at all!” said Gatland.

What he failed to point out is that his first game in charge of Wales in 2008 was also at Twickenham when his Welsh side won there for the first time in 20 years.

His ‘Class of 2012’ then lifted the Triple Crown at HQ before his 2015 team knocked England out of their own World Cup.

“It’s a great stadium to enter when you have all the fans there. I love the atmosphere and it’s even more special if you can walk away with a win.

“That’s not easy to do, but we’ve prepared well this week, and we need to build on the second half against Scotland last weekend.

“For us, it’s about starting well and stopping the crowd singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ too early and too often. We need to silence them a bit – that becomes an important factor.

“We need to start a lot better than last week, and we need to reduce the amount of turnovers. We had around 38 per cent of turnovers against us last week and that really hurt us.”

New Wales skipper Dafydd Jenkins will be leading a side showing a number of changes from the 27-26 defeat to Scotland, with loose-head prop Gareth Thomas and centre George North coming back into the starting XV, while lock Will Rowlands returns to the replacements’ bench.

“England v Wales is always massive because of the history involved in the fixture. It is a must win game for us because of where we are in the tournament,” said Jenkins.

“It is all about winning – it doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t win. Twickenham would be a great place to win for any Welshman, but especially for me as I play over there.

“I’m looking to get one over on Henry Slade and my Exeter Chiefs clubmates.”

One of those will be Cardiff-born wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who is on the bench in England’s unchanged side from their opening round win over Italy in Rome.

He had the choice of opting for England or Wales, but Gatland pointed out there were no special plans for him following his decision to turn his back on the nation of his birth.

“We haven’t even spoken about him, he’s made his decision so good look to him. There’s been no mention of his name,” said Gatland.

“It doesn’t add any extra spice. There are a lot of players from both countries who are dual-qualified. Like I said, good luck to him – I hope things go well for him.”

England insist Feyi-Waboso is ready to face Wales after Steve Borthwick selected an unchanged team for Saturday’s clash at Twickenham.

Feyi-Waboso made his Test debut as a late replacement in the round one victory over Italy and he continues on the bench for the visit of Gatland’s men.

The 21-year-old wing sensation has pledged allegiance to England despite being born and raised in Cardiff, prompting Gatland to remark that his decision had not gone down well across the border.

Borthwick had no hesitation giving Feyi-Waboso, who has been in electric form for Exeter this season, the opportunity to win his second cap.

“Not from my point of view. He came on and did really well against Italy. He has been an incredibly calm, composed and mature character,” Borthwick said.

“He’s trained very well and in the little time I’ve known him he doesn’t seem to get fazed. I only have good things to say about him.”

Jamie George, who leads England out at Twickenham for the first time, also believes the rookie will rise to the occasion if he steps off the bench.

“Manny is a very confident guy. He understands our defensive system because it’s pretty similar to the one at Exeter, which is beneficial. He isn’t fazed by anything,” George said.

Borthwick has retained the same starting XV and bench originally announced for the 27-24 victory in Italy following prop Ellis Genge’s recovery from a foot injury.

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