Warren Gatland warned his Welsh players not to start ripping up their boarding passes to Japan in the World Cup warm-up matches.
The Welsh boss saw his side lose 33-19 to England last Sunday at Twickenham, which ended a 14-match unbeaten stretch, and said another defeat could force him to re-consider his plans.
Gatland made just three changes to his strong starting XV – with Dan Biggar in for the injured Gareth Anscombe, Jake Ball swapping with Adam Beard and James Davies starting flanker instead of Justin Tipuric.
Warren Gatland saw his Wales side lose 33-19 to England at Twickenham last weekend
‘I expect us to be a lot better and more on edge,’ Gatland said ahead of the home game.
‘That’s why we have chosen guys again for this weekend because if some of them don’t front up and perform on Saturday, they are opening the door for someone else.
‘You win last week and you win this week and you would have pretty much have sealed a spot for the first game or couple of games at the World Cup.
‘That’s why we need to make the players aware they are under pressure.
‘It’s easy to make a lot of changes but some of the guys would have been disappointed with last weekend, particularly that first 20 minutes (when Wales were 14-0 down).
‘It’s about a chance to redeem themselves, to give those players another chance and put some pressure on them to perform.
‘We were pretty relaxed going into the game and sometimes with this Welsh team, in my experience, we play our best when we are on edge mentally and when we have to be on edge mentally.’
Gatland also confirmed the extent of Anscombe’s horror knee injury.
Cruelly, the 28-year-old fly-half is unlikely to play for the rest of the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and damaging the shock-absorbing meniscus too.
The New Zealand coach said it was an opportunity for players to redeem themselves
‘He did it when he made the break down the side-line,’ added Gatland.
‘It wasn’t from a tackle, he’s just stepped off his right leg. He said to the physios he felt he had jarred his knee and stayed on thinking he could run it off.
‘Unfortunately, he’s going to require surgery and is out for most of the season.’ Opposite number George Ford offered his sympathy to Anscombe.
‘When I saw that news I was genuinely upset for the bloke,’ said England’s No 10.
‘It is a horrible injury. I know a few lads who have been through that injury and it is a big one. To happen at the time that it has is incredibly unlucky for him.’ Biggar, who has won 71-caps to date, wears No 10 for Wales instead of Anscombe, with Jarrod Evans moving onto the bench.
Evans and Rhys Patchell will be afforded time to prove their worth as back-ups before Gatland finalises his 31-man squad on September 1.
‘We haven’t made up our minds whether it’s three nines, two 10s or two nines, three 10s and players being able to cover one and another’s positions,’ said Gatland.
‘Rhys has been getting better and better. We have been really impressed with Jarrod.
Gatland also confirmed Gareth Anscombe’s knee injury will keep him out for the season
‘He’s very good in his attacking play; he needs to do a lot of work on his kicking. That’s one aspect of his game he would admit is, probably at international level, isn’t quite where it needs to be.
‘So he’s been working really hard with Neil Jenkins on his out of hand kicking.
‘From an attacking aspect at training he’s looked one of the sharpest of our 10s.’ Gatland chose not to risk those with knocks for this England game – Tipuric (ankle), Beard (wrist), Cory Hill (ankle), Rob Evans (shoulder/neck) and Tomos Williams (shoulder) are all on course to be fully fit within the next fortnight.
Leigh Halfpenny – still firmly in Wales’ World Cup plans – was not considered yet, and may not play in the Ireland match on August 31 either.
Gatland is keen to see his scrum improve, though, after Tomas Francis endured a tough afternoon last Sunday.
‘I was really disappointed with how the scrums were controlled,’ said Gatland.
‘We needed to react quicker and better. The scrum will definitely improve this weekend.’ Wales’ starters need to too, having been given a rocket by the boss.’