England captain Jamie George is happy to let patriotic pride fuel his side when they face Wales in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday.
It has long been suggested the Celtic nations benefit from an extra dose of emotion when playing ‘colonial’ power England but George is keen to stress his side have plenty of passion of their own.
The Saracens hooker, however, accepts it is down to England to get a capacity crowd of more than 82,000 roaring them on given they were booed off the field in their last match at Twickenham following a first loss to Fiji in a Rugby World Cup warm-up in August.
England went on to finish third at the World Cup and they launched their Six Nations campaign with a narrow 27-24 win away to Italy last weekend — George’s first match as skipper.
“Something we have talked about a lot as a group is passion and not being afraid to show passion. I’ve certainly been encouraging of that this week,” said George.
“If people want to use that passion and emotion, as long as we are controlled and clear about what we are doing rugby-wise, I don’t see why we shouldn’t do that.
“We don’t want to replicate anyone else’s emotion — we are never going to try to do things another team’s way. We want to be authentic.”
England have lost half of their Six Nations matches at Twickenham over the last three years, a run of results that predates the start of coach Steve Borthwick’s reign.
“First and foremost, we’ve identified that our win rate there hasn’t been good enough,” said George. “The most intimidating atmospheres come off the back of the most intimidating teams.”
The only change to England’s matchday 23 in Rome is the return of Ellis Genge on the bench after the prop pulled out on the morning of the Italy game with a foot injury.
Wales suffered an extraordinary 27-26 loss at home to Scotland last weekend — a match where they were 27-0 behind.
They head to London on a seven-match losing streak at Twickenham, while it is 12 years since Wales last enjoyed a Six Nations success in southwest London.
But coach Warren Gatland boasts a fine record at ‘headquarters’.
The New Zealander oversaw a European Cup and three Premiership final victories at Twickenham with Wasps, and launched his Wales career with an upset win over England at the ground in 2008 before further triumphs in 2012 and 2015.
“The first four times I went there, we won — three Premiership finals and a Heineken (European) Cup final,” said Gatland. “I don’t find it intimidating at all!”
But the 60-year-old is well aware he is not the one playing the game on Saturday. “I love the atmosphere, and it is even more special if you can walk away with a win,” he said. That is not easy to do.”
While England have put their faith in continuity, Gatland has made seven changes to the Wales team following Scotland’s first win in Cardiff for 22 years.
Wales have a new front row, while centre George North returns from injury for his 50th Six Nations appearance and Ioan Lloyd makes a first Test start as fly-half.
North has 119 caps, more than twice as many as any of his team-mates, with Gatland saying: “What he brings to the squad is that experience, calmness and a voice.”
And if the powerhouse midfielder can help his side start as they finished last weekend, it would be a fitting tribute to Wales greats JPR Williams and Barry John, so often thorns in England’s side in the late 1960s and 70s.
Full-back Williams died in January and fly-half John on Sunday, and there will be a minute’s applause for both players, along with former England captain Mike Weston, before kick-off.