Eddie Jones insists even Rhys Patchell’s own Wales team-mates will question whether he has the “bottle” to deliver against England on Saturday.
Jones has made Patchell, who will be winning his seventh cap in the absence of the injured Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland, the central figure in the NatWest 6 Nations clash at Twickenham by highlighting his inexperience.
The 24-year-old fly-half was outstanding in the 34-7 rout of Scotland in round one but Wales were unburdened by expectation due to the loss of a host of Test British and Irish Lions to the treatment room.
Jones insists Warren Gatland’s men will arrive at Twickenham “confident and cocky” while uncertain of their chief playmaker’s ability to deal with the occasion.
“It’s easy to play when the ball is on the front foot and going from side to side,” Jones said.
“But when it gets a bit cut and thirst, nip and tuck, this will be a proper Test. Then we will see if Patchell has the bottle to handle it.”
Jones continued his extraordinary scrutinising of Patchell’s temperament by comparing the rawness of Wales’ nine-10-12 axis to his own.
“George Ford has played 41 Tests rugby and he’s got Owen Farrell next to him who’s played 54 Tests and he’s got Danny Care inside him, playing his 78th international,” Jones said.
“There’s a lot of experience on either side, but who has Patchell going to look for? He hasn’t got a lot of experience inside or outside him.
“That’s a big task for him. I’d imagine that when (Wales captain) Alun Wyn Jones and the guys go down for breakfast on Saturday morning, they’ll be looking at him thinking: ‘can this kid handle the pressure today?’ It’s a big ask.”
After a quiet build-up to the 131st meeting between the nations, Jones used Thursday’s team announcement press conference to fully engage in the phoney war tentatively started by Gatland earlier in the week.
“Everyone has been telling Wales how well they played. Warren Gatland’s been talking a lot this week. He’s confident. And they are definitely confident and cocky,” Jones said.
“They definitely believe in the way they are playing, but it will be different on Saturday in front of 82,000 people at Twickenham.
“Those 82,000 have been great supporters for us in the past and will be great for us on Saturday.
“For a kid like Patchell, playing in front of that crowd with boys like Sam Simmonds and Chris Robshaw and Owen Farrell running at him it will be one hell of an experience. I hope he has the bottle on Saturday.
“The game will come down to key moments and which team handles it the better. I’m anticipating this being a tight old Test.
“A bit of cut and thrust. Key moments are decided by experienced players.”
England have made two change to their starting XV with Jonathan Joseph replacing Ben Te’o at outside centre and Care coming in for the injured Ben Youngs at scrum-half.