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Wales boss Warren Gatland piles pressure on experimental England line-up by picking strongest side

On Friday night, Warren Gatland and his Wales assistants were due to meet Eddie Jones for dinner. On Sunday, their full-strength side can give England’s head coach food for thought on the eve of naming his World Cup squad.

What awaits could be distinctly unpalatable for England. At Twickenham, an experimental home team will collide with a Welsh juggernaut, after Gatland unveiled his strongest line-up in the quest for a record 15th consecutive Test win, at the expense of the old enemy.

The bigger picture is all about the World Cup next month and in that regard the Kiwi in charge of the visitors wants to disrupt his Australian adversary’s plans.

England’s tournament squad of 31 will be announced in Bristol on Monday, so Gatland knows that a Welsh win could have an impact far beyond the usual bragging rights. He is aware that Wales will be favourites to beat this particular bunch of Red Roses.

Gatland said: ‘There will be external expectation put on us, we need to embrace that and go into the game with confidence.

‘Hopefully we can spoil their party and make Monday difficult for them in terms of selection.’

These nations are potential quarter-final opponents in Japan so there is a broader context to what takes place during the double-header this weekend and next, in London and Cardiff.

When asked about Jones naming his tournament squad so far in advance of the September 8 deadline, Gatland said: ‘He must be very clear in his own mind what he thinks his squad is going to be.

‘I’m sure they’ll have more than the 31 in training. They have the ability to bring others in, before they go to Japan or during the tournament. I haven’t made too much of it. They’ve got their own approach.’

Assessing the team Wales are up against on Sunday, Gatland added: ‘We need to impose ourselves and bring some physicality to ask questions of them as they are not the biggest back line in the world.

‘It’s probably not the biggest forward pack either.’

England will be led by George Ford, with regular captain Owen Farrell rested. They have an uncapped vice-captain in Kiwi scrum-half Willi Heinz, while Bath right wing Ruaridh McConnochie is another debutant.

There are three more uncapped players on the bench. Among those in audition mode is Anthony Watson, back after a 17-month international exile caused by a serious achilles injury.

Noticeably absent is inside centre Ben Te’o, who was left out of the squad last week. When asked about Te’o yesterday, defence coach John Mitchell hinted at a recent injury but refused to say if that was the reason for his absence.

His inclusion in the final 31 was assured and there is mystery surrounding his omission.

Sportsmail understands that Te’o had a calf injury, yet there is an unconfirmed report that he was involved in a confrontation with a team-mate, which led to his removal from the squad.

It is not even clear where Te’o, 32, is training, as he left Worcester at the end of last season and his next destination is unknown.

Into the void has stepped Piers Francis of Northampton, highly regarded by Jones.

Not just Jones, in fact. Ford enthused about the man who will start alongside him, saying: ‘Piers has played a fair bit of 10, he’s played at 12 and I’m pretty sure he can play 13 as well.

‘He’s good to have outside you in that he’s like-minded in the way he thinks about the game.

‘He’s committed and he’s pretty decisive, which is great, because sometimes you need one clear call or someone to give you a target. He’s got a great skill set.

‘He can kick and pass, he’s a good communicator.’

There will be pressure on Jones to make the right calls on Monday, especially if the Wales game has left him with a mountain of unpalatable food for thought.

Mitchell, who served as head coach of the All Blacks at the 2003 World Cup, said: ‘It’s a difficult time for a head coach. You are making big decisions on young men’s careers. They all want to go to a Rugby World Cup.’ For some, sadly, the dream must end soon.

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