Howley: Halting Owen Farrell is key
WALES v ENGLAND (Tomorrow, KO 5pm)
WALES have acknowledged they will need to be on their best behaviour to avoid England’s dead-eye kicker Owen Farrell putting the boot into them at the Millennium Stadium.
Wales have not shipped a try since Ireland’s Brian O’Dris-coll darted over in the opening exchanges of the second half of the tournament opener.
Coach Shaun Edwards has purred with delight with the defensive displays in Paris, Rome and Edinburgh with three clean sheets on the spin.
England, meanwhile, have spluttered in attack since crossing the whitewash four times in their opening victory against Scotland.
They failed to score against Ireland and Italy and were fortunate that Manu Tuilagi’s try from a back hacked on at a ruck against France was not disallowed for offside.
However, they head to Cardiff with a deadly goalkicker in Farrell and, after Wales provided Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw with eight shots goal at Murrayfield, disclipline will be key.
“Your target when you go into games is 10 when it comes to penalties,” said interim head coach Rob Howley, whose side infringed 12 times last week.
“The history of the game suggests that if you are around that figure then you are going to go on to win the game.
“Our discipline in the tournament has been excellent and it’s making those fine-line decisions at the contact area.
“That comes down to the unity and trust you have as a team; you solve problems together and that will be the same at the weekend.”
“I was a little disappointed with our discipline against Scotland and that’s a key area on Saturday,” he added. “Steve Walsh is a world-class referee, and it is important we are disciplined and accurate.”
Wales have made two changes to the side that won 28-18 in Scotland with Gethin Jenkins returning to skipper the side from loosehead prop and Justin Tipuric replacing Ryan Jones in the back row.
That move that sees Sam Warburton move to blindside flanker but not regain the captaincy.
“I spoke to Sam but as a coach you have a gut feeling,” said Howaley. “The way Sam played against Scotland, I’d rather he just focused on his game.
“You have to make those difficult decisions when they come and it’s in the best interests of the national team to be best prepared for England with Gethin Jenkins captaining the side.”
And Howley has no fears about playing a pair of natural opensides against England’s physical pack.
“Throughout the Six Nations, we’ve been consistent in saying we would like to see Justin and Sam play at some stage together,” he said.
“Obviously, it is injury-enforced, having your two first choice number sixes being out in Ryan Jones and Dan Lydiate but I was really pleased with the way Sam and Justin worked together last weekend.
“They put pressure on the the ball, they are very smart, intelligent rugby players. We’ve got two world-class number sevens, two fetchers, two players who can be smart in the contact area, and those qualities will once again be needed in abundance.”
Paul James drops to the bench while Aaron Shingler covers the back row, although Newport Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs is another option as a replacement blindside or number eight.