Wales have been warned they do not hold a monopoly on passion as Will Stuart called on England to prove that fighting spirit is also part of their genetic make-up.
The rivals collide at Twickenham on Saturday with Steve Borthwick’s new-look team aiming to build on their winning start to the Guinness Six Nations against Italy in Rome.
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.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 9, 2024
“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,” Stuart said.
— Guinness Men's Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 8, 2024
“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.
“When the atmosphere is electric here it’s the best place I’ve ever played in. It’s on us as players to get the crowd going by playing in a dominant way.
“It’s on us to provide performances to push the crowd to spur us on. It’s always a big occasion against Wales, but we have to focus on ourselves.”
Captain Jamie George has urged his players to be unafraid to show their passion as England look to reconnect with supporters after years of underachievement in the Six Nations.
For Stuart, the Bath tighthead prop, facing Wales at Twickenham will be a moment of intense pride, even if that emotion is visible only in smaller moments.
“I don’t know if I am the most outwardly shouty or passionate bloke, but inside there’s a lot there,” he said.
“You might occasionally get a shout after a scrum penalty or something like that. But apart from that it’s catching my breath and going again!
“I like to be as relaxed as possible until we start strapping at the hotel and then it’s headphones on and be with myself a little bit.
“Some people are pretty relaxed until kick-off. It’s different for everyone.”