Six Nations: Wales know magnitude of winning at Twickenham as England bristle at passion claim
It has only happened twice since the tournament began 24 years ago, with Exeter lock Jenkins bidding to emulate previous Wales captains Ryan Jones (2008) and Sam Warburton (2012) in toppling England on home soil. Jenkins, the youngest Wales skipper since Sir Gareth Edwards in 1968, was a junior school pupil when Scott Williams’ late try secured a Triple Crown triumph at Twickenham during the 2012 campaign. And he is geared up for a huge effort on Saturday after Wales showed glimpses of their potential via a spectacular second-half fightback against Scotland last weekend, even if they ultimately lost by a point from 27-0 behind.
“I wouldn’t say it is like any other game, because England and Wales is special,” Jenkins, 21, said. “There’s massive history behind the game. It’s a must-win game for us because of the place we are in the tournament. It’ll be the best place to win. For a Welshman, there is no better place. If you win over there, you gain a lot of respect from them. It’s huge for us.
“There were a lot of emotions at half-time last week. We felt like we were letting a lot of people down. We did well to nearly get ourselves out of the hole but we didn’t. Hopefully, we won’t put ourselves in that position again. We definitely felt like we grew in terms of the performance – a lot of people stepped up in the second-half.”
While Wales victories are rare in the professional era at Twickenham, head coach Warren Gatland bucks the trend. He was Wales boss in 2008 and 2012 and masterminded a 2015 World Cup win, while he also won a hat-trick of Premiership titles with Wasps, in addition to the club’s 2004 European Cup final success.
Gatland said: “We need to start a lot better than last week. We need to reduce the amount of turnovers. The second-half was reflective of how we played against Australia in the World Cup (Wales won 40-6), with a 10 or 11 per cent turnover rate. That makes a huge difference. A number of those things were in our own control, with penalties or lineouts that we weren’t accurate enough. We have worked hard this week in trying to rectify these things.”
Wales, however, have been warned they do not hold a monopoly on passion. While it is assumed England’s opponents will always play with emotional intensity, spurred on by facing the tournament’s most unpopular team, scrum coach Tom Harrison bristles at the idea that the passion flows in one direction only. “It’s an interesting assumption to presume Wales would have an extra desire than us,” Harrison said. “There is rivalry both ways. This England is a special group. They’ve trained and gelled really well together.”
England are presenting their first appearance at Twickenham since beginning their post-2023 World Cup rebuild as the start of a new era. Apart from seeking to build on the greater enterprise shown in attack against Italy and continue to bed in their new defensive system, they want to forge a reputation as a side that will not take a backwards step.
“We beat Wales with 12 men here in August and that’s partly what we want our DNA to be – never stop fighting and whatever the circumstances, to come out on top,” prop Will Stuart said. “Loads is made of the rivalry with Wales but they’re a great side and keep battling. That’s part of the DNA we pride ourselves on as well. We’re massively excited to put a positive stamp on Twickenham and cement it as a hard place to come and play.”