Wales have the coach, players and confidence to beat England again

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The mind games are in full swing in the build-up to what should be the Six Nations decider on Saturday and the bad news for England is that the Welsh camp is angry. They believe they have not been given enough credit for the win over France and are determined to prove the doubters wrong at Twickenham.

The players are are not rising to the bait as the jibes come in accusing them of being 'stodgy' and 'boring' -- they are quite happy to let their actions speak loud and clear -- but there is definitely a prickly edge to the statements from the coaching staff, most of them at least.

Rob Howley, in particular, feels aggrieved. "It's just disappointing and frustrating," he said earlier this week. "The current crop of players have the ability to win every international game they go into... it's a shame the energy and desire they bring into the game is sometimes not reflected in terms of pats on the back."

He then went on to criticise those who, like me, have questioned the lack of attacking ambition that Wales have shown, claiming they would not have won as often as they have if they had tried to play "champagne Barbarians" rugby "because ultimately it's about putting defences under pressure and playing to your strengths."

Defence coach Shaun Edwards was singing from the same hymn sheet when he and a number of the players took part in a Q&A session on a rare day off at London Welsh last Saturday. Soon after joining Warren Gatland's team as defence coach in 2008 he rang me to ask if I was aware that, despite their reputation for exciting attacking play, Wales had finished top of the defence statistics on every occasion bar one when they had won the then Five Nations back in the 1970s and had failed when they fell below that standard.

He remembered it as if it were yesterday, citing chapter and verse when I reminded him last weekend. At the time we were lucky if we received a 16 millimetre film courtesy of the BBC six months later and there was no such animal as a statistician in those days. He had had all the old film digitalised so he could study and analyse what made Wales tick.

Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies (hotfoot back from Grenoble where he had played on Friday evening for Clermont Auvergne), Dan Lydiate, Rob Evans and Ken Owens were in good spirits. Most of the session was lighthearted -- it's good to know the forwards still get stick from the backs and vice versa even in these professional times -- but when we had the chance to chat away from the microphones I was particularly struck by the self belief they obviously share as a group. Something Howley also touched upon.

There are signs that Wales are trying to play in the wider corridors but they know they are the best defensive team in Europe -- if not the world -- and there will be no dramatic changes to their game plan. Roberts, an attacking fullback when he started, used to be a pretty slick passer of the ball but he knows his job is to drive it up the middle to try to create the platform from which Wales can win quick ball. If that happens there will be a chance to attack down the flanks and with George North and Alex Cuthbert having regained their form and confidence supplemented by Liam Williams coming from deep there is plenty of firepower.

Coaches are very often cagey about their tactics but Gatland is clearly quite happy to let England know they can expect more 'Warren-ball' -- taken to a new level, more intense than anything they saw in the Rugby World Cup because he is not hampered by the injuries that plagued Wales in the autumn.

"We have been excellent at set piece and our wings have got their mojo back -- we are in a pretty good place and are treating Saturday like a final," he said when announcing an unchanged team. "We won't be throwing the ball all over the place, we are going to be pretty direct."

And in case anybody still had any doubts about how Wales intend to play he added even more detail specifically targeting the lightweight England No. 10. "we won't disappoint George Ford in terms of where we go." I cannot remember a time when a coach has set out his stall so openly.

It almost sounds arrogant when you read his words but he comes across as anything but. This is confidence that comes from experience -- he knows he has prepared this squad as well as he possibly can and that they certainly have the edge in terms of experience and probably key players.

It might not be pretty on Saturday but it will be the battle of all battles and England will have to raise their game by at least a couple of notches if they are to keep their dreams of a Grand Slam alive.

My money is on Wales for the win and the title because of that defence and because Gatland is not angry -- he has an air of calm that is very reassuring for a Welshman.