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Men's Rugby Union Gatland relishing Saturday's battle against Jones

WALES boss Warren Gatland said today that he is “intrigued” by his England counterpart Eddie Jones as the coaching heavyweights prepare for a Six Nations showdown.

Gatland will send an unchanged team to Twickenham for Saturday’s clash following a 34-7 thumping of Scotland four days ago.

His only switch is on the bench, where fit-again George North takes over from Owen Watkin, with North poised for a first Wales appearance since last season’s Six Nations finale against France.

Saturday’s victors will be firmly on the road to a possible Six Nations title and Grand Slam triumph, yet as much interest surrounds the tactical battle between two revered rugby brains.

There were no mind games from Gatland at his team announcement press conference today, although he did deliver a couple of playful one-liners.

Asked if he noticed a difference among the England players from previous British and Irish Lions tours on last year’s New Zealand excursion, Gatland said: “I didn’t notice because it is the first time they’ve had a few English players.”

And encouraged to discuss Jones possibly being the 2021 Lions chief in South Africa, Gatland added: “He’ll do a great job if he’s Lions coach. A 3-0 [Test series win] will be expected. It’s probably the easiest of the three tours, isn’t it?

“I’m just intrigued by watching him, the way he prepares and how he goes about doing things. You learn as much as you possibly can from others. The game changes and you learn from watching other people.”

England are on a mission to overtake New Zealand as world No 1 by the 2019 World Cup — they host the All Blacks in November — and Gatland said: “You can’t argue with Eddie’s ambition and their record in the past couple of seasons.

“That [number one] has definitely been their target and we will know by the autumn. That’s going to be interesting.

“You set yourself up for a big game, and then you potentially become number one or someone pulls your pants down.

“He [Jones] doesn’t need to nick anything from me. I’m the one learning from him. He has obviously done a great job, so I am watching him particularly closely.”

Liam Williams, who was due to resume full training with the Wales squad yesterday following an abdominal injury, is not involved this weekend — he looks likely to get game-time with his club Saracens.

Gatland also said starting lock Cory Hill should be training fully from tomorrow after undergoing a head injury assessment.

Wales were the last team to beat England at Twickenham in a Six Nations fixture, winning 19-12 in 2012, and Gatland is relishing Saturday’s meeting.

“We don’t have any fear about going up there and playing. We are excited about it,” he said.

“I think the relationship between Wales and England has always been close. It’s the rugby that brings the two nations together and the history of the games.

“That is kind of what makes that relationship special. I would like to think that over the years there has been a lot of respect between the two nations.”


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