George Ford has warned England they face motivated opponents determined to prove their critics wrong when they look to secure their place in the Autumn Nations Cup final.
Wales are heavy underdogs after a six-Test losing run came to an end in uninspiring circumstances against Georgia as head coach Wayne Pivac struggles to prove he was the right choice to succeed Warren Gatland.
England have lost on their last two visits across the border, but Saturday’s climax to Group A is being played behind closed doors at Parc y Scarlets and not in front of a packed house in Cardiff.
Ford, however, knows the danger of underestimating a driven Wales.
“Being written off can be a powerful driver. Sometimes it can galvanise a team,” Ford said.
“It can bring the best out of a team and that’s why we’re preparing for the best possible Wales performance. We understand that situations like that can bring the best out of them.
“We’ve had a conversation as players that we don’t want to put in a really poor performance and have a kick up the backside ourselves.
“We want to keep getting better and keep learning whilst winning. Sometimes that can be more difficult than having a bad performance or a loss to give you that. We want to stay ahead of that curve.
“We understand that we’re playing Wales in Wales and everything that comes with that as well.”
England put one foot in the final when they dismantled Ireland 18-7 at Twickenham last Saturday, using their brutal defence as an offensive weapon to bone-jarring effect.
But it continued a series of conclusive wins in which the attack has failed to ignite amid a strong emphasis on kicking and set-piece dominance, often at the cost of their willingness to expand horizons.
Ford’s return at fly-half should add a new dimension inside a centre combination of Owen Farrell and Henry Slade and the 27-year-old playmaker has a message for those concerned by failure to cut loose.
“Be more patient! We have one of the most experienced coaches in the world of rugby in Eddie Jones, who knows the game inside out,” Ford said.
Read more of Eddie's thoughts on the return of @George_Fordy, facing Wales and his memories of Maradona in Test Talk: Inside the bubble ⤵
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 26, 2020
“Eddie understands the process of things, the timelines, everything – it is unbelievable how much one guy knows about the game and the way he gets it across to his players.
“And we have a leadership who are pretty experienced and understand the game at international level as well, so we understand we need to get certain aspects right first.
“Then of course we want to be improving our attack to be a threat and improve on a variety of ways to score points.
“In Test rugby, you have to have really strong foundations. The nuts and bolts are set piece, defence and discipline and then getting your work rate and energy in the right place every week.
© ⫶ Mae'r capten yn dychwelyd i'r XV cychwynnol i wynebu Lloegr yn Llanelli.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 26, 2020
“And of course you want to be threatening with the ball and have a great attacking threat.
“But in my opinion, attack is probably one of the most difficult parts of the game in terms of becoming a really good attacking side. It takes time, it does take time.
“But without those other foundations there is no point even going to focus on your attack.
“You need those foundations in place consistently to start layering detail on your attack to become a threat.
“We are working hard on it as always and we want to be a team who take opportunities and are clinical.”