Six Nations 2014: England deserve 'pat on the back' for blooding young players, says Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards
Stuart Lancaster has used this tournament to try new players
Wednesday 26 February 2014
Shaun Edwards believes that England boss Stuart Lancaster and his fellow coaches deserve “a pat on the back” for having the courage to blood young players.
ancaster has gone down the same route as Wales chief Warren Gatland in not being afraid to give untried Test match talent a chance.
When the countries clash in a pivotal RBS 6 Nations encounter at Twickenham on March 9, England's back division is set to feature players like Jack Nowell, Jonny May and Luther Burrell, who have already made a mark during this season's tournament despite their inexperience.
England will face Wales on the back of an invigorating victory over Ireland, while Gatland's team revived title hopes by crushing France 27-6 - their biggest win against Les Bleus since 1950.
"They've been absolutely fantastic, considering their youth," Wales assistant coach Edwards said, of England's backs.
"The coaches deserve a pat on the back for bringing in so many quite inexperienced young lads who haven't played a lot of Test matches, and they've played so well.
"Both the players and the coaches need to have a pat on the back for that - the coaches for having the guts to pick them as well, like Warren has done in the past, with picking young players."
Wales have won on two of their previous three Six Nations visits to Twickenham under Gatland, while they claimed a record 30-3 win when the the countries last met in Cardiff almost a year ago. Wales' championship away record shows just one defeat since 2011.
"I think it's experience," Edwards added, in assessing Wales' strong Six Nations form on the road.
"We've got a few over-30s, but we have also got a lot of young lads who have had a lot of experience, like losing a World Cup semi-final in quite controversial circumstances and then fighting back (a few months later) and winning a Grand Slam.
"We've had a varying degree of experiences together, and I think that helps when you go to away grounds, which can be hostile.
"We respect our opponents, we are also aware they (England) are the favourites going into this game and we are also aware that the whole of England expects them to come away with a Triple Crown, so there is a lot of pressure on them as well.
"This year's Six Nations shows that one game doesn't have much of an effect on the next one. Look at how the results have shifted. What is important is momentum shifts in the game itself.
"Everyone is aware of what happened last year. Things went our way on that day and we happily accepted the championship, but this year has been a prime example - England lose against France, then they beat Ireland; Ireland hammered us, then we did a good job on France.
"We just try to play to a level of intensity every time we play, whether it's against England, Scotland or Ireland. We let ourselves down against Ireland (Wales lost 26-3) and didn't reach that level of intensity. We were beaten on the day by a better team.
"We try to be consistent with our levels of intensity because it's no good being fantastic one game and the next game average. That is not what we expect of our players, and they don't expect that of themselves."
Jonathan Davies, meanwhile, remains on course to play a part in Wales' Six Nations campaign as he continues his fightback from injury.
The British and Irish Lions centre has had just 40 minutes of rugby since he damaged a pectoral muscle during Wales' home defeat against South Africa last November.
Wales have also lost Davies' Scarlets centre partner Scott Williams (shoulder injury) from their Six Nations plans, and wing George North was moved into midfield for last Friday's title-reviving 27-6 victory over France.
Davies is likely to feature for the Scarlets against RaboDirect PRO12 opponents Munster next Saturday, and Edwards has given him "a fighting chance" of being available to face England.
Lock Alun-Wyn Jones, meanwhile, is firmly on course to face England after missing the French clash due to a foot infection.
Off the pitch, it is likely that England's players will repeat their walk through Twickenham's West Car Park on route to the changing rooms before facing Wales.
It was a new experience for players and supporters before the Ireland game three days ago, but Wales' sizeable France-based contingent could be excused for wondering what all the fuss is about.
"It's something we do at Perpignan," Wales lock Luke Charteris said.
"The crowds come so early, they are crazy. They are all drinking and eating and partying before the game, and we walk through that atmosphere. They will either cheer you or heckle you, depending whether it's a home or away game.
"We've had a few windows on the bus smashed as we've driven into a few places. It is slightly more hostile."
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