I don’t think I coached a game against Wales of this magnitude in my time, where everything is on the line.
We had some big games, but it was never like this and we often won comfortably. I only lost once to Wales, that infamous 1999 defeat at Wembley, and never lost in Cardiff.
The Wales team celebrate a famous 32-31 win over England at Wembley in 1999
UP THE ANTE
Given the quality of the England team and the performances in the opening two games, my strategy would be to really build this up.
Yes England are playing in Cardiff, but if they have aspirations of going to Japan and beating New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the others on neutral ground then they must go to Cardiff and win. They must put Wales away.
I would make that very clear to my team as you have to find out how these guys handle the pressure. It’s always easier to be tough on your players when you’re playing well and winning.
I would not back off it. Let’s face it, Eddie only has one goal for 2019 — it is not to win a Grand Slam, but to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan in November, so it is all about that.
Aside from replacing injured players I would keep the same starting side. He has to learn about his team now.
THROW VERBAL GRENADES
I would try to wind up Warren Gatland this week ahead of the game. I used to love doing that with Eddie Jones before games against Australia as there would always be a response.
Nothing nasty, but just try to get a reaction from their camp. I prided myself on trying to get on the front foot against opposition coaches, and not just cop it as the England coach.
I would definitely bring up the fact that Gatland said that if Wales win their opening game against France then they win the tournament. ‘They are obviously favourites because Warren thinks the game is already won,’ or ‘they had their Grand Slam game in Paris,’ things like that. Also, make a point of saying you’re surprised about one selection even if you’re not. You don’t want to wind them up too much, but a little to push their buttons is good.
With Jones and John Mitchell against Gatland, Shaun Edwards and Rob Howley there will be no lack of motivation on the coaching benches, so there are no niceties needed.
I would try to wind up Warren Gatland this week ahead of the game at the Millenium Stadium
SILENCE THE CROWD
We made a big thing about this. Can we silence a home crowd by the sheer quality of our rugby?
England did it in Dublin and if they can do it in Cardiff and win they almost become favourites to win the World Cup — that’s how big this is.
If England concentrate on how they are going to attack and defend, and concentrate 90 per cent on that, they can stun the crowd into silence by the quality of their play.
I loved all the Welsh stuff before a game. I went to school on Anglesey — at HMS Conway Naval School — and grew up watching the great Welsh team of the 1960s and 1970s. I was probably one of the only players to grow up in Wales and not play for Welsh Schoolboys! They picked Gareth Davies instead of me, which still grates even today!
I loved Cardiff Arms Park and the Principality Stadium — you can only be inspired when playing there. It is probably the ultimate place to play rugby. When there is a big match on it’s better than Twickenham, Eden Park, Ellis Park — it is the number one rugby stadium in the world.
The players will never forget this game as it is that big, so embrace it.
Walk around the pitch, immerse yourself in it, come up with a plan of where you will sit in the dressing room, become as familiar as you can with the stadium before the game.
Yes players will be nervous, but think about how many Englishmen would give their right arm to be where you are.
The last time England lost there in 2013, Stuart Lancaster’s side were well beaten 30-3. You could just sense they were going to struggle beforehand.
England last tasted defeat at the Principality Stadium in 2013, losing by a 30-3 scoreline
I was pitchside working for television and you could see the fear in the England players’ faces; and the incredible passion of the Welsh guys when the anthems were played.
I remember turning to Jonathan Davies and saying: ‘There is only one winner today.’
So you have to cover that off. I think England are well placed, though. Owen Farrell is a different player from the one from six years ago, and this is a more experienced team.
TREAT IT LIKE A FINAL
Coming away with a win is huge for either team.
Wales have not lost in a year, and have won 11 in a row, so they have real momentum.
England have won their quarter-final against Ireland, the semi against France, now this is a final. There is no Monday morning. If they lose, Italy and Scotland will be horrible games to play in.
This is the biggest game in 2019 before the World Cup kicks off — by a mile. Whoever loses this clash will be in bits on Sunday morning.
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