Gatland describes England’s Sinckler as an ‘emotional time-bomb’
'The big challenge for him is to keep his emotions under control'
England’s prop Kyle Sinckler. In the two England Six Nations matches so far he has been involved in flashpoints with Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony and France’s Arthur Iturria. Photograph: Getty Images
Gatland also called England’s decision to delay their journey to Cardiff until Friday afternoon as a “significant mistake”, and dismissed Jones’s claim that Gatland’s side are the greatest in Welsh history.
Jones had earlier questioned whether Wales can handle the expectation that comes with seeking a record 12th consecutive victory in what will be Gatland’s last Six Nations match against England.
It is the barb at Sinckler which resonates most, however. The prop appeared in all three British and Irish Lions Tests against New Zealand under Gatland in 2017, and has gone on to establish himself as England’s first-choice tighthead. In both their Six Nations matches so far he has been involved in flashpoints with Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony and France’s Arthur Iturria.
“There is sometimes a challenge with temperament,” said Gatland, who brushed off “speculation” linking him with the England job once Jones leaves his role.
“He is aware of it, as are other players. He has been involved in a couple of incidents this Six Nations. Emotionally he can be a bit of a time-bomb. We will not be going out to antagonise him, but the big challenge for him is to keep his emotions under control.”
England have informed Wales of their decision to keep the Principality Stadium roof open as was the case two years ago – with Jones stating “it’s still a winter sport, isn’t it?”
Gatland consistently questions why it is not Wales’s choice, but believes England decision not to travel earlier will be more costly.
Tractors and buses
“I think it is a significant mistake. Going through Newport at 5pm on a Friday is not the best thing to do, and it will be an experience for them with tractors and buses holding things up.”
Jones has a 100 per cent record in his four matches against Wales, and an England victory would put them two wins away from the grand slam. It is the first time he and Gatland have locked horns in Cardiff, however.
“They’re going to be full of emotions,” Jones said. “They’ve been saying they’re ready to rip off heads. The senior players are holding them back. It’s Warren’s last game as Wales coach, it’s a big week for them, a lot of expectation. That can either be wind in your sails or a ball and chain.”
Gatland moved to play down the pressure on his side.
“The only quotes I can see about this being the greatest Wales team are from Eddie Jones. I wouldn’t be disrespectful enough to say this was the greatest Welsh team ever. It’s a long way off being the greatest Welsh team ever. He’s the one talking us up.”
Gareth Anscombe has been preferred to the more experienced Dan Biggar and will start at fly-half for Wales at the Principality Stadium. Gatland named a team showing only two changes from the side who beat France three weeks ago.
The Dragons lock Cory Hill replaces Adam Beard as Alun Wyn Jones’ secondrow partner, while the scrum-half Gareth Davies takes over from the injured Tomos Williams. The prop Samson Lee is also unavailable because of injury.
Jack Nowell and Ben Moon have been named to start for England as Jones makes two changes to his side. Joe Cokanasiga, the 21-year-old winger who scored two tries in his first two England matches during the autumn, is also in line for a first Six Nations appearance having been named on the bench.
Nowell comes in on the right wing in place of the injured Chris Ashton – he may well have done so anyway considering his performance away to Ireland – while his Exeter team-mate Moon will make his first Six Nations start at loosehead, with Mako Vunipola out for the rest of the tournament with an ankle injury.
WALES: L Williams, G North, J Davies, H Parkes, J Adams, G Anscombe, G Davies, R Moriarty, J Tipuric, J Navidi, A Wyn Jones (c), C Hill, T Francis, K Owens, R Evans. Replacements: E Dee, N Smith, D Lewis, A Beard, A Wainwright, A Davies, D Biggar, O Watkin.
ENGLAND: E Daly, J Nowell, H Slade, M Tuilagi, J May; O Farrell (c), B Youngs; B Moon, J George, K Sinckler, C Lawes, G Kruis, M Wilson, T Curry, B Vunipola. Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie, E Genge, H Williams, J Launchbury, B Shields, D Robson, G Ford, J Cokanasiga.