Six Nations 2014: England v Wales: Alun Wyn Jones holds special praise for opposite second row duo Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury
The Wales lock praises Sunday's opposition as 'the stand-out second-row pairing of the competition so far'
Friday 07 March 2014
Dynamic England locks Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes will go into battle at Twickenham on Sunday accompanied by a notable admirer - Wales opponent Alun Wyn Jones.
Jones has praised a second-row combination he will aim to stop in its tracks when Wales target a third successive RBS Six Nations victory against their fiercest rivals.
Ospreys star Jones captained the British and Irish Lions to a Test series-clinching victory over Australia in Sydney last July.
If the Lions were touring this summer, then there is every chance that Jones would be joined by the England duo, whose partnership and understanding is developing rapidly.
"Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury have probably been the stand-out second-row pairing in the competition thus far," 76 times-capped Wales lock Jones said.
"I think Launchbury, especially. If you look at the momentum-shifts he was able to produce against Ireland, he is playing like an extra back-row (forward) with the contribution he is making to their pack."
Wales recovered from their mauling at the hands of Ireland's forwards in Dublin last month to inflict a 27-6 drubbing on France a fortnight ago.
Jones missed that title-reviving Millennium Stadium victory due to a foot infection, but he now resumes normal service alongside second-row partner Luke Charteris for the 125th meeting between England and Wales.
"I had some anti-biotics and fortunately enough it's all right now," Jones added.
"I had MRIs, X-rays, ultra-sounds, bloods, swabs - you name it, they did it all! I have been pretty fortunate with the level of care I've had, but it is just one of those things that happen and I've had to deal with."
Wales have suffered a solitary defeat in three Six Nations games at Twickenham during Warren Gatland's coaching reign, and they will arrive at English rugby headquarters this weekend following a record 30-3 demolition of the red rose brigade last season.
Jones, though, has also experienced the pain of a sobering Twickenham defeat, notably a 62-5 World Cup warm-up thrashing in 2007 when he featured at blindside flanker. Jones is the only Wales starting XV survivor from that bleak August afternoon on Sunday.
"Going away from home, your backs are against the wall," he said.
"We are probably slight underdogs going into this because of the way we performed against Ireland and we realise just how much it is going to take for us to win.
"I think we do pretty well under pressure and since the Ireland game we have been under pressure. That is going to continue to grow, whatever happens at the weekend or leading up to the weekend.
"After the third round of games, the competition is wide open, with the four front-runners all having lost once.
"There is always going to be a lot said about the historical stuff (between England and Wales) and all that, but it is an opportunity for us to improve from that Ireland game. The boys did that against France and now we want to kick on and bring the experience that we have.
"It is either going to be one of the attritional games where you trade in threes (kicks), or it's going to be chucking it about and a lot of ball in play.
"Look at the back-three they've got and the way they are playing at the moment, especially Mike Brown. It's going to be exciting stuff."
The England-Wales fixture arguably attracts more pre-match hype than any other on rugby's international circuit.
And Jones added: "It is always a thing for the fans. They get up for it and there is always the banter on social media and stuff like that.
"People can enjoy that, but within the squad it is about working and the professional side of things, so we have to shelve that and move on."
Of the 124 previous meetings, England and Wales have each claimed 56 victories, with 12 draws. The last drawn game was at Cardiff Arms Park in 1983.
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