England coach Eddie Jones says the bitter defeat by Wales in the World Cup will not be in his players’ minds when they face Warren Gatland’s side in a crucial Six Nations clash at Twickenham on Saturday.
Wales overcame a 10-point deficit and a catalogue of injuries to win a thriller 28-25 at Twickenham in September — a defeat which helped to send England crashing out in the pool stage.
Since Jones replaced Stuart Lancaster, however, England have revived and three wins from three means they are on course to win the Six Nations. Victory over Wales would make it almost a formality.
On Thursday, Jones named an unchanged starting side to the one that beat Ireland in their last game, with Leicester’s powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi, who has not played for England since June 2014 because of injury and disciplinary issues, ready to make an impact from the bench.
The mood, Jones told a news conference, is upbeat.
“We’re a new England. We don’t refer back to that game,” he said. “Seventy percent of our players are the same but we have a different philosophy of how we train, behave and play.
“We’re in a good position for the game.”
Wales will present England with their biggest test so far under Jones. Victory for the Welsh would throw the championship wide open.
“Wales have been the benchmark in terms of strength and conditioning in Europe for probably the last five or six seasons under Warren Gatland,” Jones said.
“Warren’s sides are well known for their physicality and he’s been able to achieve that with Wales. We acknowledge they’re right at the top of the tree in terms of conditioning.”
With Tuilagi on the bench, Jones has an extra weapon up his sleeve should England need a different approach.
“Manu brings power and pace. He ran a couple of beautiful lines at training yesterday where he just scythed through our defence,” he said.
“He’s a very valuable acquisition off the bench, he’s in good spirits and keen to play well for England.”
Team: Mike Brown, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley (capt), Joe Marler.