Wales may begin their World Cup against Uruguay in Cardiff on Sunday but their defence coach, Shaun Edwards, made no secret of the fact that England are being lined up as the key game of the so-called pool of death.
Warren Gatland’s side travel to Twickenham six days after their tournament opener to face the World Cup hosts in potentially one of the most pivotal games across all the pool fixtures. And Edwards admitted Wales had been working in training on how to counter the increasingly potent England attacking threat, which led to 18 tries in the last Six Nations, five more than their closest rivals.
“We are playing against England, who have just come off the Six Nations and scored more tries than any team ever has in the tournament,” he said.
“They have also scored the most points in the last two Six Nations, so we are playing against a very potent attacking team, who can hit you in all ways.
“They have some electric backs and play expansive rugby but they can also hit you through the forwards with a mauling game.
“We have our hands full and know we have a huge challenge ahead but we are preparing well for that.”
Edwards admitted his players had already been working on how to defend against England’s fleet-footed pacemen in a pool where he expects a barrage of tries, with points difference potentially deciding the two teams to qualify.
“You have to counteract certain aspects of the attacking strengths,” added Edwards. “England’s backs have fantastic footwork so I won’t hide the fact we have been practising a lot against guys with really good feet and that sort of player.
“We have got good feet with people like Hallam Amos, and have been working on all aspects of the defence, either head-on or with people with tricky feet and the English players are very good in this department.”
Edwards singled out a quartet of players as England’s key threats for their second match in the pool stage: the No 8 Ben Morgan, wings Anthony Watson and Jonny May, and Jonathan Joseph, whom he described as “probably in the top No 13s in the world at the moment”.
Edwards added: “We are fully aware of the threat coming our way.”
With Australia as opponents in their final pool game, Wales know that they need to give themselves the best possible start with a sizeable points total over the minnows of the pool in Uruguay.
And despite having half an eye on the World Cup hosts, Edwards called on his players to avoid following suit.
“The fact is it’s the opening [game] of a World Cup and it’s in their own country, it’s the chance of a career,” he said. “If you can’t get motivated for that, then you’re probably in the wrong sport.”Reuse content