Wales hopeful on injuries
February 17, 2012
George North is an injury concern for Wales ahead of their Twickenham showdown © Getty Images
Wales are optimistic their bid for Triple Crown glory at Twickenham next week will not be hampered by injuries to key players.
Coach Warren Gatland's entire Six Nations squad will reconvene at their training base on Monday after more than a dozen players were released for club duties this weekend. That list includes France-based trio Mike Phillips, James Hook and Lee Byrne, Aviva Premiership contingent Rhys Gill, Andy Powell and Craig Mitchell, plus a number who will be involved in RaboDirect PRO12 action.
So while Gatland must hope that sizeable group all emerge unscathed, he will also keep a close on eye on the likes of George North (ankle), Huw Bennett (calf), Ryan Jones (dead leg) and skipper Sam Warburton (thigh). That quartet remained among a 20-plus party working with Gatland and his coaching assistants today, in addition to hooker Matthew Rees (calf strain) and flanker Justin Tipuric (ankle).
Victory for Wales over England tomorrow week - only their second at Twickenham since 1988 - would not only secure a 20th championship Triple Crown, but also leave them two more wins away from landing a second Six Nations title and Grand Slam of Gatland's four-year reign.
"There are a few battered and bruised bodies, still, but we are hoping everyone is going to be up and running by next week," Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins said. "They've got the weekend off after a bit more rehab today, and we will see where we are on Monday and Tuesday."
Wales' sole away victory over England in the past 24 years sparked their 2008 Grand Slam season, and they will head east along the M4 next week as firm favourites to emulate that triumph. But Jenkins added: "One win since 1988 I think says it all, really. We are under no illusions about what is ahead of us a week on Saturday. It is going to be very tough and very physical.
"They (England) won their first two games. It is never easy to go to Murrayfield and Rome and win, and they will be very happy with the results they've got. They will fancy their chances. We've done reasonably well against them at home over the past 10 years, but it has been pretty tough and bleak for us at Twickenham.
"We know what is at stake. It is a Triple Crown game for us and a chance to win and go on to try to win the championship."
Wales opened their Six Nations campaign with a thrilling victory over Ireland in Dublin, then followed it up by comfortably seeing off Scotland, amassing 50 points and six tries in the process. England, in contrast, have managed just two tries - both charged-down scores by fly-half Charlie Hodgson - and a total of 32 points.
"We did the job in Dublin this year, but that has gone now," Jenkins said. "Next week will be a totally different occasion and totally different game, so we have got to make sure we are right.
"Winning in Dublin was a fantastic achievement for us, and we want to do our best to make that count at the end of the day and give ourselves a chance to win a pretty prestigious trophy. I think England will come and have go at us, without a doubt. They have got a very good back-three, and I am sure they would love to get the ball to them on more occasions and give them an opportunity."
And as for preventing Hodgson claiming a hat-trick of charged-down scores, Jenkins added: "We will look at it and do an awful lot of work on it over the next week. We do a little drill in terms of looking at charging down the opposition, and on clearing our own lines. Hodgson is very good in that area - he charged the Ospreys down for Saracens in this season's Heineken Cup, as well."
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