Lions room-mates Itoje and Wyn Jones share barbs before battle intensifies

Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones will shift from friends and former room-mates to rivals when England host Wales on Saturday.

Lions room-mates Itoje and Wyn Jones share barbs before battle intensifies

Emphatic wins by both teams in the opening round has elevated the excitement surrounding the NatWest 6 Nations showdown at Twickenham and the clash between Itoje and Jones will be among the duels taking centre stage.

The pair grew close on the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand after rooming together for two weeks and their bond has led to a public exchange of ribbing centred on cocoa butter and baldness.

“We got on very well during the Lions tour, although his musical tastes are very different to mine,” said Saracens second row Itoje.

“He let his hair down. I’m fortunate enough to have quite long, free-flowing hair. He’s severely balding, but I think he’s come to terms with that now.”

In response to Jones’ complaint over his refusal to share his cocoa butter, Itoje replied: “First of all he didn’t ask and secondly he doesn’t use it. He’ll be all right.”

Itoje and Jones are at contrasting stages of their international careers, the Englishman’s 18 caps comparing unfavourably with the 123 held by his rival from Wales.

“Alun’s very professional, trains hard, and is diligent with his preparation,” said Itoje.

“Obviously going on tour you spend time with the other home nations and you pick up things. The Welsh players are like this, the Irish players are like that, etc, etc.

“Alun has a good workrate and works very hard. He’s a nice guy as well. I got on very well with him on tour. It was a good experience.

“I know him better because I played with him and I’ve played against him twice already this season when Saracens played the Ospreys.

“But that isn’t even in the slightest bit difficult for me. It’s a completely different setting, different team, different environment.”

The Lions tour also offered Itoje the chance to work under Warren Gatland, the long-serving Wales coach who is plotting England’s downfall this weekend.

“Warren is very experienced and he’s a good coach,” said Itoje.

“He gives his teams confidence and I’m sure he will give his Welsh team a lot of confidence this week — especially after their game against Scotland.

“The rivalry with Wales is big. This was my first start a couple of years back, so the whole magnitude of that occasion was massive.

“There will be a lot of passion. It will be intense. It will be physical. It is a great game to be a part of and I’m sure Twickenham will be rocking.”

Meanwhile, Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies will seek out “a little confidence boost” by revisiting the 2015 World Cup win against England.

Davies scored a stunning try eight minutes from time at Twickenham to put Wales in touching distance of toppling the World Cup hosts.

His half-back partner Dan Biggar’s penalty shortly afterwards sealed a 28-25 win and England ultimately suffered a demoralising pool-stage exit.

Davies will be back at Twickenham as one of only three starting XV survivors from that late September evening — centre Scott Williams and lock Alun Wyn Jones are the others — with England once again in his sights.

“It’s a big part of my homework, to look back on previous games against them,” he said. “I will do that this week.

“I will look back at that game in the World Cup and other games in the Six Nations to see if I can pick up any traits.

“We’ve got laptops in our team room. Everything is on the server there so we can look at whatever we want – any game you can think of is available on there.

“It (2015 game) is just a reminder and a little confidence-boost, isn’t it? It’s good to look back at when we were successful.

“I swapped shirts with (England scrum-half) Ben Youngs that day, so I’ve got his shirt hanging up in my house. There are a couple of photos floating about, too...

“It’s one of the favourite moments in my career so far. There are others up there — winning the league with the Scarlets last year, that famous (European Champions Cup) win against Bath a few weeks ago. But that try in the World Cup is up there.”

Davies’ 60m interception try set the ball rolling for Wales when they pummelled Scotland 34-7 in last Saturday’s NatWest 6 Nations opener, but title holders England away from home represents a tougher challenge.

They are unbeaten at Twickenham in the Six Nations since Wales toppled them six years ago, and while Davies acknowledges the degree of difficulty, he is also relishing another tilt at England’s finest.

“England are one of the form teams in the world and we are expecting a massive challenge. It should be a cracking game,” he said.

NatWest 6 Nations: England v Wales

Saturday: Twickenham, 4.45pm

Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)

TV: TV3, BBC

Bet: England 1/5 Wales 7/2 Draw 22/1

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