Gatland seeks Welsh rugby freedom from England

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Luke Phillips
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Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) - After watching Wales labour to dispatch minnows Uruguay, coach Warren Gatland said he hoped his injury-hit team can express themselves against England next weekend.

Wales racked up eight tries in a 54-9 victory over Uruguay, but at times struggled against the largely amateur South American team.

England kicked off their World Cup campaign with a 35-11 victory over Fiji -- who play Australia on Wednesday -- and Gatland admitted that one eye had always been on the English game during the build-up.

"We spent a bit of time this week looking at England and thinking about England, we had to do that with the short turnaround," the Kiwi coach said.

"We were definitely a bit rusty today and England looked a bit rusty as well.

"I don't think either team will take much from the two performances, but we both know how important next Saturday is."

Gatland said Wales had to improve on the Uruguay win. Six first-team regulars were rested but there were six injuries and Cory Allen, scorer of three tries, suffered a hamstring tear likely to end his World Cup.

"Next week's going to be about up in the head and getting ready mentally for the confrontation.

"We saw how England played against us in the Six Nations, we saw what they did on Friday night against Fiji when things tightened up, they went back to their forward play."

Gatland added: "Every single lineout's going to be a contest, up front is going to be a mental and physical battle, we've just got to prepare for that.

"It's going to be a tough battle up front, that's what I'm expecting. We saw from the Six Nations, they drove every lineout, they want to control the tempo of the game, they want to bring some physicality to it."

Gatland, however, said it was essential his team do not get bogged down by a strong English pack, notably after injuries to props Samson Lee, Paul James and Aaron Jarvis against Uruguay.

"We want to make sure we don't get dragged into a game that we don't want to play," he said.

"We've got to go out there and be expressive and be prepared to move the ball if we need to. But we've to be combative up front and try and negate some of the English strengths."

Gatland said he was not worried about playing at Twickenham, England's rugby bastion.

"As a team, we’re confident in our own ability. As a stadium, I think it's one of the best rugby stadiums," Gatland said.

"England have had success there but we've had success there and as a coach I've had a huge amount of success. I look forward to going there.

"It's a challenge for us as coaches and the players and that’s something you've got to get excited about.

Wales skipper Sam Warburton, born in Cardiff to English parents, said "England at Twickenham is going to be one of the most, if not the most high profile match any of the boys selected have played in.

"I can't wait, it's going to be an amazing occasion. This is what it's all about, the big stage."