BAGSHOT – England coach Eddie Jones has backed Jonathan Joseph to make life tough for Wales flyhalf Rhys Patchell after recalling the centre for Saturday’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham.
Outside centre Joseph and scrumhalf Danny Care, in for the injured Ben Youngs, are the only two changes to the run-on XV that launched England’s Six Nations title defence with a 46-15 win away to Italy on Sunday – a match where they both starred off the bench.
Joseph has changed places with Worcester midfielder Ben Te’o, with his return forecast by Warren Gatland when the Wales coach named his side on Tuesday.
“It’s just my gut feeling,” said Jones at England’s training base in Bagshot, south-west of London, on Thursday.
“I feel he will start the game well against Wales,” added the Australian, who has won 23 of his 24 Tests in charge of England.
“We were very happy with Benny Te’o last week, he played really well for us.
“But it’s also his second game back, and my experience with players is that their second game back from a long injury is always the most difficult game, so we’ll use him off the bench this week.”
Wales come into this match on the back of thrashing Scotland 34-7 in Cardiff, a match where Patchell impressed in his first Six Nations start following injuries to first-choice Wales flyhalves Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland.
But Jones said Joseph’s sheer speed would provide Patchell with a tougher test.
“JJ’s got great experience, he’s fast, a great defensive player,” Jones insisted of the 36-times capped Bath centre.
“Every time Rhys Patchell looks up, he’s going to see ‘JJ’ in his vision – it’s not a great sight.
“They (Wales) have got to get the ball wide, and Patchell hasn’t played much Test match rugby.
“He’s a young guy, he’s inexperienced and he’s their third-choice 10. He’s got to get the ball wide, and that’s going to be a big job for him.”
Saturday’s match will see Care, starting after Youngs suffered a tournament-ending knee injury in Rome, become England’s most capped scrumhalf when he makes his 78th Red Rose appearance to move past 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson.
“Danny is more of a running player, which means the kicking duties will be shared a bit more,” said Jones of the Harlequins No 9.
Richard Wigglesworth, who plays for Quins’ London rivals Saracens, the European champions, provides bench cover.
“He’s been magnificent mate, truly professional,” said Jones of Wigglesworth. “He’s 34, trains like a 24-year-old, speaks like a 55-year-old – a great addition to the squad.”
Wales have had an extra day of preparation for this match – they played Scotland last Saturday and England faced Italy on Sunday – but Jones said: “We’ve had 18 months to prepare for this turnaround (since knowing the date of the fixture).
“Is that difficult? It’s difficult, if you haven’t used your 18 months well. We’ve used our 18 months well.”
15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Bench: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell.