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Jamie George challenges England to create intimidating Twickenham after Warren Gatland jibe

Jamie George - Jamie George challenges England to create intimidating Twickenham after Warren Gatland jibe

Jamie George has put the onus on England’s players to create an intimidating atmosphere and silence Warren Gatland when the two sides meet in the Six Nations on Saturday after the Wales head coach dismissed Twickenham as a venue that “doesn’t hold any trepidation”.

New captain George plainly admits that England’s recent home record, which has included a first defeat to Fiji and a record loss to France in the past 12 months, “hasn’t been good enough.” Yet as he prepares to lead England at home for the first time, George argues that Twickenham will only grow a fear factor when the team start consistently delivering “confrontational” performances in the manner that Ireland do at the Aviva Stadium.

“You can always reflect back on the history but ultimately, we’re looking at the here and now we’ve got an opportunity to put a marker down and make a statement about who we want to be and what English rugby wants to be about going forward,” George said.

“For example some of our toughest games have been at the Aviva, away in Ireland. The Irish fans seem to really love when the ball goes up in the air for a contestable kick. They love when a maul gets formed. That can be pretty intimidating at times. I think the identity of the Irish team is very clear for every Irish fan to see.

“If we want to be the type of team we want to be and create an intimidating environment to play in at Twickenham then first and foremost we have to be the sort of team that we want to be. We want to be physical, we want to be confrontational, we want to be aggressive. I think that engagement with the fans will be very clear.

“It’s great that it’s been received really well from the fans and I know that they’re going to be on their A game in the stands and bringing a lot of noise and we’ve got an opportunity to give them a reason to do that.”

Although England have recorded just three wins in their past 10 home matches, Wales have only won three times against their great rivals at Twickenham since 1988, the last victory coming at the 2015 World Cup. Nevertheless, Gatland insists there is little sense of foreboding about visiting the home of English rugby.

“No, because the first four times I went there we won; three Premiership finals and a Heineken Cup final [with Wasps],” Gatland said. “I don’t find it intimidating at all! It’s great when you come in the gates and everyone is outside and you’ve got the fans there, it’s a great stadium to enter. I love the atmosphere and it’s even more special if you can walk away with a win. And that’s not easy to do.

“For me, it doesn’t hold any trepidation. It’s about starting well and stopping the crowd singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot too early. Silence them a bit – that becomes an important factor.”

Following feedback from the squad, the Rugby Football Union has instigated several changes to the matchday experience, which will include a longer walk from the coach to the stadium. The changing room will also be updated but kept secret from the players until Saturday and George wants his team to match the passion in the stands.

England players’ walk to the ground has been extended in an effort to improve the matchday experience for fans - Jamie George challenges England to create intimidating Twickenham after Warren Gatland jibe
England players’ walk to the ground has been extended in an effort to improve the matchday experience for fans - Getty Images/Bob Bradford

“It was interesting because a meeting for us on a Monday, a post-travel day, you would have thought we would be speaking about game-plan,” George said. “We did touch on game-plan during the day but in the evening it was solely around Twickenham and the emotion around this game, which really set the tone nicely for us for the week.

“It [the walk] is going to be extended, which I’m really, really happy about. We’ve done a few bits in and around the changing room, which I think will make things feel a lot more special. For us, having the ability to put a smile on someone’s face is a huge privilege. Walking into that wall of noise – these are things we’ve spoken to The RFU about, trying to make that a special moment.

“Something we have talked about a lot as a group is passion and not being afraid to show passion. First and foremost, the emotion in a game is important. It resonates with people because it allows you 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 while prop Ellis Genge returns to the bench. That means first home starts for flanker Ethan Roots and centre Fraser Dingwall as head coach Steve Borthwick looks to build upon the momentum from the 27-24 victory away to Italy last weekend.

“It is an important step now that those players have now entered that Test environment, that they have that continuity and cohesion with it,” Borthwick said. “It is a new team that we have here in so many different ways. I have been struck by genuinely having to hold the players back. We have this young group coming into the team who have different strengths and added a different blend.”

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