Six Nations 2015: Wales still expect tough England test despite injuries
Warren Gatland not buying into talk of weak England team as injuries take their toll on the Red Rose
Warren Gatland has dismissed the notion that Wales are firm favourites to defeat a weakened England team.
While England have been beset by almost a dozen injuries in recent weeks, the Wales head coach has had few injury problems to deal with ahead of the opening Six Nations clash between the bitter rivals on Friday 6 February.
It does not matter what team they put out. They are going to be strong and we saw that last summer where they were able to put out a different team against the All Blacks and did exceptionally well.
All eyes will be on the Millennium Stadium with many pundits predicting that the winners of the match will have a great chance of claiming the new Six Nations trophy that replaces the outdated Five Nations iteration that was retired along with Brian O’Driscoll as Ireland took home the silverware 10 months ago.
Despite England’s loss of influential players in Manu Tuilagi, Joe Launchbury, Brad Barritt, Ben Morgan and Owen Farrell, Gatland believes England are still a force to be reckoned with.
“England have a huge amount of strength in depth in a lot of positions,” he said.
“It does not matter what team they put out. They are going to be strong and we saw that last summer where they were able to put out a different team against the All Blacks and did exceptionally well.
“We are expecting a really strong side.”
Wales were plagued by injuries last year as they gave up the Six Nations crown they had won in 2012 and retained in 2013, and there is a sense of ‘what goes around comes around’, but not being too openly pleased to see England lose some of their best players.
The challenge for us is to make sure we don’t allow the injuries to become a distraction and people talk us up too much.
Their defeats were painful away outings in Dublin and London, but the last time England visited the Millennium Stadium with a title on the line they were blown away as Gatland’s charges secured a famous 30-3 win.
The talk may be dominated by the players England head coach Stuart Lancaster still has available to him when they arrive in the Welsh capital next week, but Gatland insists Wales can’t afford to get caught up in it.
“We had a lot of injuries last year and if you look at Six Nations in 2014, England only made three changes, Ireland made four and we made 18, he added.
“We are lucky this time around that we have not got too many and unfortunately England have picked up a few.
“The challenge for us is to make sure we don’t allow the injuries to become a distraction and people talk us up too much.”