Howley urges Wales to improve

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley says the defending champions need to greatly improve their all-round performance levels when they face Six Nations title rivals England at Twickenham on Sunday.

Wales are seeking a fourth successive victory over their traditionally fiercest rivals, and they have not conceded a try against them since Manu Tuilagi's World Cup warm-up touchdown on August 6, 2011.

Both teams are firmly in the mix for silverware, with Wales still harbouring hopes of landing an unprecedented Six Nations title hat-trick and England knowing that victory on Sunday would clinch a first Triple Crown for 11 years.

"It is a Triple Crown (game) for them, and it is a game we want to win to stay in the championship. We've spoken coming into this championship about winning three (titles) in a row," Wales assistant coach Howley said.

"In normal games of this magnitude your performance has to go up 10-15 per cent, and an experienced team is hopefully able to go to that 10 or 15 per cent because you have been there before.

"This group of players has been together for a period of time now. They have played and won away from home, and that obviously gives you confidence.

"I keep talking about the Six Nations and the results over the last three rounds. It's all on the day.

"It is a totally different game one week to the next, and I suppose it is the side that gains momentum, and then under that pressure of the cauldron of Twickenham is able to continue the momentum.

"I am sure the atmosphere is going to be similar to last year (Wales won by a record 30-3 scoreline in Cardiff), but very much England-loaded.


"As players we have to deal with that, and the more experience you have of going away and winning, hopefully you become automated and are able to switch off that outside influence and be very tunnel-visioned in terms of your skill-set, technically and tactically."

Wales' preparations have been hit by the withdrawal of Perpignan lock Luke Charteris, who suffered a neck injury during a Wales scrummaging session on Wednesday.

Charteris will be replaced by Berkshire-born Scarlets forward Jake Ball, who shone on his first Test start in the 27-6 victory over France last month.

"Luke had a bit of a stinger with his neck at a scrummaging session on Wednesday. He has come in today a little bit sore, and we have taken the decision early to omit him," Howley added.

"It is a great opportunity for Jake. I thought he was outstanding in the nuts and bolts of his game against France. He played against two experienced second-rows in (Pascal) Pape and (Yoann) Maestri, and he came through with flying colours.

"In terms of his game against France, his work-rate, his ball-carrying game, you couldn't ask any more for his first start, and I am sure he will just want to replicate that at Twickenham.

"The one thing you need in international rugby is to concentrate on your own game, and that's what he did really well against France."

England's line-up, announced on Friday, was as expected, with former Scarlets number eight taking over from an injured Billy Vunipola, but Howley expressed surprise that powerhouse centre Tuilagi is not involved after recovering from a pectoral muscle injury that kept him out since September.

"I am quite surprised that Manu Tuilagi hasn't come in, having worked with him (with the Lions) in the summer. I thought he was outstanding to work with," Howley said.

"He is a potent attacking threat. I know he has lacked some rugby, but there is an X-factor about Manu.

"Ben Morgan and (Billy) Vunipola are similar players in terms of their ball-carrying and work-rate. Ben Morgan is a great carrier, and we have talked about closing his space down. He fits that mould Billy Vunipola has given England - it is like for like."