Courtney Lawes warned clubmate Dan Biggar he is on the warpath as England rejected Sir Ian Botham’s claim that they are an unhappy camp.
Lawes has been tasked with upping the physicality on Saturday in Wales where England must win to keep alive their Six Nations title hopes.
Last night the Northampton forward spelled out his intention to “rattle” Welsh playmaker Biggar and ignite England’s tournament after a poor start.
“My game is based on physicality and bringing that edge to the team,” said Lawes. “I am always pretty sore after games as I try to make good hits – and plenty of them.
“Biggs is pretty tough to be fair, especially for a 10. But I caught him the last time we played and he said he felt it, which I was kind of chuffed about.
“He is obviously a class player so if I can get some pressure on him I certainly will. I don’t think it will rattle him too much but I will try.”
If Biggar was in any doubt of what is coming his way, his Saints employers kindly posted a compilation video of Lawes' "biggest hits" with the warning: "Half-backs, look away now…"
England head to Cardiff with questions to answer following a no-show against Scotland and only a small improvement against Italy.
Cricket legend ‘Beefy’ Botham, whose grandson James is in the Wales squad, believes all may not be well in Eddie Jones’ squad.
“I think England can be taken,” he told the BBC. “I think Wales can take them at this moment in time because England don't look a happy camp to me, looking from the outside in.”
Botham’s assertion was immediately challenged by England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot who said: “Strange how someone can look inside the Lensbury bubble and know how happy we are.
“What people mustn’t underestimate is that this is a competitive competition,” he added. “What you learn in defeats, as what you learn in victories, doesn’t make you unhappy. It doesn’t make for an unhappy camp.
“This is a camp where you learn; you learn to bring your best every moment of the day. And we will do that. I don’t think we’re an unhappy camp. I think we’re a very determined camp.”
That may be, but what England have undeniably lacked has been an edge and without one they are not going to get past the unbeaten Welsh.
Lawes does not need telling, having played in England’s last six defeats to their arch rivals, four of them in Cardiff.
“Most teams target us for whatever reason, that’s something we’re used to,” he said. “But what springs to mind when I think of Wales is the competition. It’s always tough, always close and always a hell of a battle.”
Proudfoot says Lawes will be key as he is a “hard man, a man who speaks with his actions”.
George North is set to win his 100th Wales cap with scrum-half Kieran Hardy handed his first Six Nations start.
France have been given the green light to play Sunday’s Six Nations clash against Scotland despite a Covid outbreak in their camp.
The match was in doubt after head coach Fabien Galthie tested positive, followed by 10 players and two members of staff.
Two subsequent rounds of testing, held on Tuesday and again yesterday, revealed no further positive cases.
The decision comes as a huge relief for Scotland, who ran the risk of losing more than 10 of their players to English Premiership club duty had the match been put back a week.
Tournament chiefs say they will “continue to monitor the situation very closely” and remain in regular contact with both unions.
France lead the table on points difference from Wales after wins over Italy and Ireland.
But they have their work cut out in light of the loss of captain Charles Ollivon and last year’s player of the tournament Antoine Dupont to the virus.
Ireland is today mourning the passing of former prop Gary Halpin, whose death at the age of 55 has been announced.
The ex-London Irish star won 11 caps, none more than notable than against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup.
The match proved to be the launch pad for superstar Jonah Lomu – but only after Halpin had ploughed through the Kiwi defence to score the opening try.
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