|Guinness Six Nations: England v Wales|
|Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London Date: Saturday, 7 March Kick-off: 16:45 GMT|
|Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru, text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.|
In his latest BBC Sport column, Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes discusses Saturday’s “brutal” Six Nations clash against England, the threat of Manu Tuilagi and how Sam Warburton is using WhatsApp to help Wales at the breakdown.
Every Test week is exciting but this one, England against Wales, the battle of the Severn Bridge, always feels particularly big.
It’s going to be a brutal affair.
It should be an exciting game, and it’s always a great occasion at Twickenham – a tough place to go and as players we want to go there and do well.
And as a fan, you’ve got to be pretty excited haven’t you? It’s a big occasion for all involved.
A lot of history goes with it and in recent years it’s been pretty even. It will be a tough, physical game and England are playing well.
They’re a big, strong team but they’ve also got some exciting players as well.
You look at the likes of Manu Tuilagi. He’s a big man, a powerful boy – but he’s not even the biggest in his family!
It’s good to see him back playing. Unfortunately for him, he’s had a pretty nasty time with injuries over the past couple of years but he’s come back and played well for Leicester as well as England, and he had a good World Cup.
Manu’s extremely powerful but he’s also got great feet, he’s a good distributor of the ball and he’s got a bit of pace as well.
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It’s a challenge facing him but it’s the kind of challenge you look forward to.
He gives England a lot of go-forward ball, gets them on to the front foot and allows the likes of Ben Youngs, George Ford and Owen Farrell and the outside backs to get into the game.
They’ve got some exciting players there and, with quick ball against defences which aren’t set, they can create a lot of opportunities.
Any team with quick ball is a hard team to defend against because, if they get momentum, of course teams are going to make yards against you.
So you’ve got to get set in the right position and use line speed to get right into their faces and put their skills under pressure.
Every defence is breakable. Every defence is a system but the main thing is a good attitude – getting your shoulder on, using the right technique and putting in legal tackles, putting them on the deck and getting your jacklers into the game to slow their ball down.
Warburton’s helping hand
That’s a massive part of the game, so it’s great that Sam Warburton – who was one of the best jacklers in the world when he was playing – has joined us as a breakdown technical advisor for this campaign.
The breakdown is so important in defence and attack, and Sam has been doing drills with the backs as well as the forwards during training sessions.
He’s also been sending clips to us in our WhatsApp group, showing us good and bad examples of the breakdown.
Sam’s been there and done that and it wasn’t long ago he was playing.
He’s new to coaching but he knows the game extremely well, players respect him hugely because he did so well with Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
What he brings is that little bit extra and I think the boys really enjoy working with him. Under Shaun Edwards, we attacked almost every breakdown in defence. Now, we’re picking and choosing a lot more.
There was only a bit of crossover between Sam and me because he was injured when I first got into the Wales squad, but it must be odd for some of the guys who played with him who are now getting coached by him.
It’s probably harder for Sam himself because he’s part of the management team but he’s played with so many of these boys, captained most of the boys in the squad, especially the older ones.
He’s been on that side of the fence and now he’s on the other.
You need a good balance of being able to socialise and have good craic with the boys, and then having to stand up in a meeting and be serious. It’s a working balance and the boys are enjoying what he’s doing.
Moving in the right direction
We were pretty disappointed as a team that we let a few opportunities slip in the loss to France last time out, and the bounce of the ball didn’t go our way a few times, but well done to France.
It’s probably the best we’ve played in this tournament – but we didn’t get the victory so nobody cares whether we played well or not. The end result is what you want.
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Ireland and France were both games where we had opportunities but we didn’t take them.
We just have to keep learning and, next time we’re in that position, we should be able to convert.
There is a new coaching group that’s come in and certain things have changed, and it is building nicely. Our attacking game is taking a different shape and it takes time to get used to that.
But ultimately these are Test matches and we want to win.
There are other teams going through change as well. We want to do well and we want to win, especially at home.
As players, we’re learning news ways of playing, some subtle differences, and it does take time.
The coaches are working with the players individually and collectively to make sure we’re heading in the right direction. We want to play a brand of rugby we enjoy playing and that the fans enjoy watching – while winning.
Defence was not what we wanted against Ireland, France was a step in the right direction and we need to keep moving in the right direction.
For the latest Welsh rugby union news follow @BBCScrumV on Twitter.
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