England will rise to Welsh challenge - Farrell
LONDON (AFP) –
Assistant coach Andy Farrell says England have proved in recent months that they have what it takes to prevail against Wales in Saturday’s Six Nations decider in Cardiff.
England, gunning for their first Grand Slam in a decade, face a Wales team who have swept all before them three times in that period, including in last year’s championship.
However, Farrell believes the experience England gained in the draw against South Africa last June and the subsequent 38-21 defeat of New Zealand at Twickenham in December will stand them in good stead.
“When we have had a challenge thrown at us, we have responded,” Farrell said.
“It is the ultimate test to go there and win, but it is where we want to be.
“Wales have been there and done it. They have been a tremendous side over the years. They have a lot of experience and won Grand Slams.
“It is going to be a tremendous challenge because experience should come through. You would expect trophies to go with the experience.
“We don’t mind a bit of adversity. It is where we have been good in our short time together.
“Experience has to start somewhere and we have to be challenging to win our first trophy.”
Farrell singled out the memorable win over world champions New Zealand – which followed back-to-back losses to Australia and South Africa – as proof that England need fear no-one.
“What pleased me most about that win was the adversity of us losing the two games before it and the pressure it put on us,” he said.
“The performance that came out of that showed a team that isn’t going to fold under pressure.
“People’s expectations were then for us to kick on. We played well against Scotland and showed character through the rest of the Six Nations to get where we are now.”
Since cruising to a four-try victory over Scotland in their Six Nations opener, England have struggled to break down their opponents with the ball in hand.
Despite beating Ireland, France and Italy, they have run in just one try, with their finishing against the Italians particularly poor.
Farrell accepts that England must do better against Wales, but he says it would be wrong to draw too many conclusions from Sunday’s 18-11 win over Italy.
“They (Wales) look hard to break down and they seem to have pride in their defensive line,” he said.
“The game is about accumulating points to win the game. If you look at points, they are on 92 for the tournament and we are on 91, so we are obviously doing something right.
“Wales have scored two more tries. We must have been doing something right to get all the three-pointers in the first place and end up on the same points.
“We didn’t have the composure to convert our chances into tries and we have to be better at that.
“Tries don’t just come from attack. They can come from set pieces, from your kicking game, from all areas of the field.
“We have to make sure all areas of our game are switched on this weekend to break that good defence Wales have.”
Farrell revealed that Joe Launchbury had not trained on Tuesday, but said the lock’s elbow injury “ain’t as bad as we first feared”.