Roger Uttley: 'Arrogant' England image will motivate Wales

Ex-England captain Roger Uttley says Wales will be fuelled by historical and stereotypical images of the arrogant English oppressor at Twickenham.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Manu Tuilagi of England in action
Manu Tuilagi of England in action

The one thing you have got to accept as a player when you are wearing the white of England is that we haven’t got any friends.

Opponents can be having the worst season in the world but, provided they beat England, they can rest easy.

Winning against the English covers all sorts of other disappointments. It is nothing new, and on Sunday we have the mouth-watering prospect of Wales visiting Twickenham.

Both teams are in a similar position and it will be a fascinating contest, particularly in light of what happened last year in Cardiff when the English were humiliated.

It has been interesting to hear comments from some of the England players talking about the hostility surrounding the fixture, something I have experienced as a player myself.

I remember being spat on by supporters in the tunnel walking out for the games in Cardiff, and there is definitely no love lost there.

In terms of any antagonism on the field, the simple fact is everybody wants to win, and I would expect nothing less. Following after a Lions year players will know one another much better, and while it will be no holds barred there will be a mutual respect between both squads.

There is a tendency for opposition supporters to characterise the English as arrogant. Wales will certainly be using that as they file past the Barbour and green wellie brigade in the West car park at HQ. They are coming from the Principality into the capital city, and history plays a big part.

From the Welsh point of view, it is the idea of a nation testing itself against the oppressor. They are the downtrodden and victimised neighbour, and the prospect of putting one over the men in white at HQ will be used as a serious motivating tool.

On the selection front, I would not expect many changes to the England line-up when Stuart Lancaster names his side tomorrow.

We know Billy Vunipola is out injured, but they have a natural replacement in Ben Morgan.

Manu Tuilagi made his return for Leicester last weekend after five months out, but you could see against Newcastle that he is understandably a little ring-rusty after such a long lay-off. It is great that he is fit again as he is clearly an integral player for the future, but I think it would be too soon to put him straight back into the side given how well they are currently performing.

From the Welsh perspective the return of Alun Wyn-Jones will provide a huge fillip to the team He is a second-row who has turned into a great leader at international level, and a very important part of the current Welsh set-up.

Championships are decided by who can get the best squad out on the field, and if you have someone of his experience coming back it can only be to your advantage. We saw on the Lions tour what a focal point he can be, and another Lion in Jonathan Davies is also apparently in line with a chance after injury.

Looking at the two teams the question many people will be asking is can Wales out-scrummage England?

Against Ireland that was one of the areas where the English got themselves in a knot. With the likes of Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins, both proven operators at this level, one would imagine Wales will look to target the scrum.

It will be a real test for England given their setback in Cardiff last year, when they were taught a very salutary lesson by the Welsh. We will find out whether or not Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team have overcome those deficiencies, and can prepare the guys mentally to cope with all the attendant pressures that surround this particular fixture.

The weather forecast looks fine and both sides have already demonstrated a willingness to throw the ball around.

Seeing two of the best full-backs in Mike Brown and Leigh Halfpenny going head to head will provide one of several cameo contests. How England’s tyro wings cope with their giant Welsh counterparts will be an interesting match-up of contrasting styles.

Closer to home, I enjoyed being at Kingston Park on Sunday watching Newcastle Falcons taking on Leicester. Even if the 41-18 scoreline was ultimately disappointing, the opening quarter was very encouraging.

Sunday’s game was a prime example of depth when Leicester were able to bring on guys like Thomas Waldrom and Toby Flood. They looked bigger units right across the board, and for all their spirit Newcastle were just inexorably overpowered the longer the game went on.


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