Wales v England
Edwards: 'Wales are in a better place than last year'
ESPN Staff
February 5, 2015

Wales coach Shaun Edwards says they are in a "better place" than last year as they prepare to welcome England to the Millennium Stadium on Friday in the Six Nations opener.

Wales kick off the tournament against Millennium Stadium visitors England on Friday night, when victory would give them immediate momentum in a competition they have won twice during the last three years. The 2012 and 2013 Six Nations champions lost both of their away games last season - including England at Twickenham - which derailed any realistic title challenge.

This time around, though, Wales will arrive in European rugby's showpiece competition following a stirring victory over southern hemisphere heavyweights South Africa, while they are also at full strength for England's visit.

"We are in a better place than we were this time last year, when there was a lot going on," Edwards said. "The lads had won two Six Nations, had come off a Lions series and there were the troubles with the regions, so there were quite a lot of distractions.

The changing 'hate' of Wales-England

© Getty Images
  • Friday marks the 126th match between England and Wales and much of the talk leading up to the game inevitably focuses around the rivalry between the two camps. But when you look back at the first meeting in 1881 there was no talk of rambunctiousness or cross-border animosity. A report from The Times' started by mentioning "a large number of persons assembled on the ground of Mr Richardson's field". England won by eight goals to nil with the immediacy of the game preventing Wales from fielding their strongest side. The report praised the English while giving an honourable mention to Wales and Pontypridd's Edward Treherne. It was all very civil.
  • Read the full feature on the Wales-England rivalry here

"I just feel we are more focused this year. We are also healthy, which is a massive factor. We had 18 changes last year (throughout the Six Nations), when England had four and Ireland three, and they were the top two teams. It goes in cycles. We have beaten South Africa, which was the second time in 100 years, and that got a monkey off our back.

"But we have always said we are judged on the Six Nations and competitions where you have a trophy at the end of it. The big competitions are the Six Nations and the World Cup."

Unlike two years ago when Wales won 30-3 in the Six Nations decider, the Millennium Stadium roof will not be closed on Friday after England boss Stuart Lancaster opted for it to be kept open, but Edwards said: "It is not something we've discussed too much. We will just get on with playing the game. I believe it is a dry night tomorrow night, so hopefully it will be a good game of rugby."

Edwards, speaking at Wales' pre-match press conference on Thursday, also identified what he feels is a considerable rugby league influence on how England play. "They play a little bit like my old team the Wigan Warriors, actually," he added. "They will come at you with a lot of what is called league-plays with that ball out the back, and it is important we get our structure right on that. It is also important there is no obstruction of our defensive plays up ahead of the ball.

"When you watch rugby league games, there are a lot of tries disallowed when they go to the TMO (television match official) if there has been any obstruction ahead of the ball. I am sure the TMO and the referee will be well aware of that. It is a risk doing a lot of those league plays because of the obstruction rule, and I think the obstruction rule is administered even more harshly in rugby union than possibly what it is in rugby league.

"There are big areas that can go either way. Two years ago, we got all the scrum penalties, which gave us the field position which gave us the squeeze on England. Last year, they got the scrum penalties."

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