Jamie George has tasked England’s players with creating an intimidating atmosphere and silencing Warren Gatland when the two sides meet in the Six Nations on Saturday after the Wales head coach sacked Twickenham as a center that “has no fear”.
New captain George bluntly admits that England’s recent home record, which includes a first win against Fiji and a record loss to France in the last 12 months, is “not good enough”. But as he prepares to take charge of England at home for the first time, George insists his fears at Twickenham will only grow if the team starts to consistently deliver “controversial” performances in the way Ireland do at the Aviva Stadium .
“You can always reflect on history but at the end of the day, we’re looking here and now we have an opportunity to put down a marker and make a statement about who we want to be and what we want English rugby to be. about. in the future,” said George.
“For example, some of our toughest games were in the Aviva, away from home in Ireland. Irish fans seem to love it when the ball goes up in the air for a contested kick. They love when a maul is formed. That can be quite intimidating at times. I think the identity of the Irish team is very clear for all Irish fans to see.
“If we want to be the kind of team we want to be and create an intimidating environment to play at Twickenham then first and foremost we have to be the kind of team we want to be. We want to be physical, we want to be aggressive, we want to be aggressive. I think the contact with the fans will be very clear.
“It’s great that it’s been really well received by the fans and I know they’re going to be on their A-game in the stands and they’re going to make a lot of noise and we’ve got a chance to give them a reason to to do that. .”
While England have recorded just three wins in their past 10 home games, Wales have only won three times against their arch-rivals at Twickenham since 1988, the last coming at the 2015 World Cup. however, Gatland insists there is little understanding of visiting the home of rugby England.
“No, because the first four times I went there we won; three Premier League finals and a Heineken Cup final [with Wasps],” Gatland said. “I don’t think it’s intimidating at all! It’s great when you come into the gates and everyone’s out and you’ve got the fans there, it’s a great stadium to go into. I love the atmosphere and it’s even more special if you can walk away with a win. And that is not easy to do.
“For me, it doesn’t scare me. It’s about getting off to a good start and getting the crowd to stop singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot too soon Silence them – that’s an important factor.”
Following feedback from the squad, the Rugby Football Union has introduced a number of changes to the match day experience, including a longer walk from the coach to the stadium. The dressing room will also be updated but it will be kept a secret from the players until Saturday and George wants his team to match the passion in the stands.
“It was interesting because when we had a meeting on Monday, a day after travel, you’d think we’d be talking about a game plan,” said George. “We touched on the game plan during the day but in the evening it was all about Twickenham and the emotion of this game, which set us up nicely for the week.
“Yes [the walk] is going to be extended, which I am very happy about. We’ve done a few pieces in and around the dressing room, which I think will make it feel a lot more special. It is a great privilege for us to be able to put a smile on someone’s face. Walking into that wall of noise – these are the things we talked to the RFU about, trying to make that a special moment.
“What we’ve talked about a lot as a group is passion and not being afraid to show passion. First of all, the emotion in a game is important. It’s about people because it gives you a chance to show them how much it means to you to play for England.”
For the first time since the 2019 World Cup, England have named an unchanged starting XV and prop Ellis Genge returns to the bench. That means a first home start for flanker Ethan Roots and center Fraser Dingwall as head coach Steve Borthwick looks to build on the momentum from last weekend’s 27-24 win over Italy.
“It’s an important step now that those players have now come into that Test environment, that they have that continuity and cohesion with it,” Borthwick said. “It’s a new team we have here in so many different ways. It really bothered me that I have to hold the players back. We have this young group coming into the team with different strengths and bringing a different mix.”