England head coach Eddie Jones has ignited the animosity prior to Saturday’s Six Nations tussle with Wales by questioning whether inexperienced fly-half Rhys Patchell has the mental strength to cope with expectation upon him.
Scarlets playmaker Patchell was instrumental as Wales routed Scotland 34-7 in the opening round of fixtures and will continue in the No10 jersey at Twickenham in the continued absence of injured duo Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland.
Jones suggested that a repeat performance against England would be a far tougher proposition for the rookie 24-year-old, while the Australian also boasted that other Wales players would be blinded by the light.
“The pressure on him [Patchell] is going to be enormous. It’s whether he has the bottle to handle it,” said Jones.
“We’ll find out on Saturday. He hasn’t played much Test rugby at all and he’s their third-choice No10. He is going to have [Chris] Robshaw at him, [Owen] Farrell at him, [Danny] Care at him – all guys that have played a lot of Test rugby.
“Wales see themselves on a self-proclaimed roll at the moment. So we will see how they deal with Twickenham and how they deal with us. They have got a number of players that are going to struggle with the expectation.
“They played really well against Scotland but it’s going to be different on Saturday – they had no expectation on them last Saturday but this week they come full of expectation.
“Everyone has been telling them how well they played. [Head coach] Warren Gatland’s been talking a lot this week. He’s confident. They’re confident.”
Wales scrum coach Robin McBryde was determined to ignore Jones’s barbs. He said: “Any player wearing the No10 jersey is going to come under pressure so nothing is different there.
“I’m not going to try and take on Eddie. He’s always got a few things to get off his chest and I hope he’ll feel the better for it.”
Jones, meanwhile, has made two changes to the XV on duty in England’s victory over Italy in Rome on Sunday with Danny Care replacing the injured Ben Youngs and Jonathan Joseph coming in for Ben Te’o, who drops to the bench.
Wales boss Warren Gatland claimed earlier this week that England’s six-day turnaround to tomorrow’s game, compared to Wales’s seven, could count against them. Jones, however, was happy to return fire.
“I can remember 18 or 24 months ago someone at the Rugby Football Union, whose name I don’t recollect at the moment, coming in and saying ‘you play Italy on Sunday and Wales on Saturday, it that ok?’. No problem,” added Jones.
“That’s the draw. We’ve had 18 months to prepare for this turnaround. Is that difficult? It’s difficult if you haven’t used your 18 months well. We’ve used our 18 months well. We’ve had great preparation.”