Eddie not in a party mood
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: England coach Eddie Jones takes his side to Cardiff for a potential tournament-decider against Wales having promised to “spoil the party” at the Principality Stadium.
England and Wales are the only two unbeaten sides left in this season’s Championship after the opening two rounds.
Wales are on an 11-match unbeaten run, with just one more win required to break their all-time record set from 1907-1910.
They were last crowned Six Nations champions in 2013, when they thrashed England 30-3 on the final day of the tournament that season.
England, however, is bidding for a third Six Nations title under Jones, who has won all four of his matches against Wales since taking over as Red Rose boss after the 2015 World Cup – when Warren Gatland’s side helped knock arch-rivals England out in the first round with a pool-stage victory at Twickenham.
This weekend’s match is set to be Gatland’s last Six Nations game in charge of Wales against England as the New Zealander is standing down from his post after this year’s World Cup in Japan.
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“As we know, the week has all been about Wales,” Jones told reporters at England’s training base in Bagshot, southwest of London.
“The dragons are flying, aren’t they? So it should be interesting.”
Asked if he still believed Gatland’s current side were the “greatest Wales team ever” Jones, not averse to trying to unsettle his opponents ahead of a game, replied: “I don’t think I said that, I’m just repeating what the popular view is.
“They are up to win 12 games in a row, it’s Warren’s last game as Wales coach [against England in the Six Nations] before he takes over somewhere else so it’s a big week for them, a lot of expectation.”
“That expectation can either be some wind in their sails or it can be a ball and chain, so we’ll find out on Saturday,” the Australian added.
“They have a team they are so proud of and a coach they are so proud of. It’s his last game. We are excited to be a part of that and spoil the party.”
But no one inside the Wales camp or even among their most loyal supporters has seriously suggested the present side are better than the 2008 and 2012 Grand Slam-winning teams, let alone any of the celebrated Welsh teams of the 1970s.
“The only quotes I can see about this being the greatest Wales team are from Eddie Jones,” said Gatland.
“It hasn’t come from anyone else, so I wouldn’t be disrespectful enough to say this was the greatest Welsh team ever. It’s a long way off being the greatest Welsh team ever,” the former Ireland coach added. “He’s the one talking us up.”
Gatland, who coached players from both countries when they were all involved in the British and Irish Lions side that drew a three-Test series in New Zealand two years ago, said: “There is a huge amount [of] respect between the players from both teams. With the Lions, the Welsh boys and English boys got on really well.”
There is also a link between the backroom staffs, with Gatland and England assistant coach John Mitchell sharing a house when they played together for Waikato in New Zealand.
“I’ve already had a text from John Mitchell [England assistant coach] and Eddie saying they are looking forward to catching up after the game and having a drink,” explained Gatland.
“This is all fun and games now, but afterwards it’s about catching up with some mates and enjoying the occasion.”