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England captain adds his voice to Wales' strike threat

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: England captain Owen Farrell expressed sympathy for his Wales opponents as he urged his side to relish the challenge of playing in Cardiff should Saturday’s strike-threatened Six Nations international go ahead.

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The match is at risk because players in Wales are threatening to down tools over a contract dispute and are reportedly ready to strike if their demands are not met by Wednesday.

Calling off the England game could cost the Welsh Rugby Union an estimated £9 million ($11 million).

A new financial agreement between the four Welsh regions – Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets – and the WRU has still to be confirmed in writing.

That has sparked concern that a sizeable number of players whose contracts expire at the end of this season will leave Wales due to uncertainty over their futures.

Asked if he sympathised with the Welsh players’ plight Farrell said on Tuesday: “From what I’ve heard, yeah.

“I know quite a lot of them and I’m sure they’re not being unreasonable with what they’re asking for. I don’t think they’re like that.”

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However, the 31-year-old flyhalf added: “Then again, I don’t know the other side of it. To be in this situation is obviously not very pleasing for them, but I’m sure they will get it sorted.

“I’m sure that anyone who is going through a bit of adversity tries to use it and it brings them closer together.”

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‘Enjoy it’

Farrell, a veteran of 103 England caps, said turning out as an England player at a Principality Stadium with a capacity of over 74 000 was never a straightforward task.

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“As I’ve said before about this game, going down to Cardiff and playing in front of a packed house at the Principality is always a massive challenge and we’re expecting that at the weekend.”

But he urged novice England internationals unfamiliar with this particular experience to enjoy themselves should the game go ahead.

“What do you think people grew up wanting to play in?” he said.

“People used to grow up playing in the back garden thinking they were playing in front of 75 000 people.

“You didn’t grow up wanting to play in front of 10, did you? So let’s act like we’ve got that opportunity.

“We want to do it, and enjoy it, and everything that comes with it. It’s not going to be all our way, for sure, but it’s brilliant.”

England, aiming to make it two wins out of three under new coach Steve Borthwick against a Wales side who’ve lost both their opening two matches this Six Nations under returning boss Warren Gatland, last triumphed in Cardiff in 2017.

“You’ve got to make good decisions, you’ve got to be able to ride the waves that come with a Test match, and try to impose yourself as much as you can on the other team,” said Farrell.

“We’ve not always got that right down there, we’ve probably got it right for chunks, then not for others.

“And it’s hard to get back, especially down there when it goes that way.”

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