Rugby: Jones warns England to guard against Welsh wind ups

By AP

Alun Wyn Jones admits Wales would have preferred the roof be closed against England. Photo / John Cowpland
Alun Wyn Jones admits Wales would have preferred the roof be closed against England. Photo / John Cowpland

Coach Eddie Jones has alerted his England side to watch out for any mischief in Cardiff.

The English take their national record 15-test winning streak into Principality Stadium early tomorrow in a pivotal Six Nations match.

England ruined Welsh title hopes in the last two years, and Jones warned his side to be wary of shenanigans before the game, like incessant phone calls at the hotel, delayed arrival at the ground, no heating in the changing room, and deliberate misunderstandings.

"It happens regularly in Wales," Jones said. "So the challenge for a team to play away is to be better than that. They're things you can't control.

"Once we go down the M4 and across the Severn River, we don't control anything. The only thing we control is our own mental state and the way we play the game. That's how good sides are, and the way we want to be."

But Jones already made certain of annoying Wales before then by refusing the home side's request to close the roof. Wales wanted an indoor game to improve the chance of a running game, but captain Alun Wyn Jones admitted a closed roof also elevated the crowd noise to a level that made it uncomfortable for visitors.

The Welsh notably tried to pull one over England in 2015, by delaying their arrival on the field long after England's. They hoped to make England freeze, but Chris Robshaw got into a standoff with officials and refused to leave the tunnel until Wales came out at the same time. Wales' plan failed, the kickoff was delayed, and England won on opening night, ultimately costing Wales the title.

Last year, Wales went to Twickenham with the title on the line, started sloppily, England went 19-0 up and prevailed 25-21.

Both teams ought to be better off for tomorrow after overcoming sluggish starts to win their openers.

Wales came from 7-3 down to Italy at halftime to triumph 33-7.

England had to rally from behind twice against France, scoring a 70th-minute try to win 19-16.

Jones said the result felt like a loss.

"We wanted to go out there and set the benchmark for the Six Nations and we didn't and we're disappointed by that," Jones said. "We want to go out this week and redeem ourselves. And that's a good feeling."

Jones limited his changes to restoring Jack Nowell on the right wing and starting Jack Clifford on the openside flank. Clifford scored his only test try against Wales a year ago.

Loose forwards Clifford, Maro Itoje, and No8 Nathan Hughes have just 20 caps between them.

Opposing them are Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton, and Ross Moriarty, who share 130. In reserve is Lions No8 Taulupe Faletau, who hasn't played since December 24, but was looking good in training, coach Rob Howley said.

The Six Nations draw keeps looking on Ireland kindly.

Most observers a week ago regarded Ireland's last-round home match with England the ideal winner-takes-all finale. It may yet prove so.

But Ireland's visit to Rome tomorrow also appears to be ideal and timed well. It could only be better if Italy were in Dublin.

The second-round match took on greater significance for Ireland as soon as fulltime was blown last weekend at Murrayfield, where they lost to Scotland 27-22.

The Irish want to get their title ambitions back on track, and what better team to face than Italy, against whom they have lost only once in the last 20 years.

In Six Nations history, Ireland lost the first game and won the last four once, in 2004. None of that runner-up team remain, but the current crop believe they can win their last four, too.

"There is a confidence that this team can still win the championship," centre Robbie Henshaw said. "What this team did last year and in November, it's incredible, it's an incredible group.

Donnacha Ryan was fit to return at lock for Iain Henderson, and Jack McGrath's shaky start at loosehead prop saw him switched out for the man he ousted two years ago, Cian Healy. Italy made four changes.

In the third game, re-invigorated Scotland play France in Paris early on Monday.

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