Hooker Ken Owens has warned England that Wales will be as fired up as ever despite the lack of supporters at Principality Stadium, ahead of the teams’ mouth-watering Round 3 showdown.
The hosts head into next weekend’s Cardiff clash behind Guinness Six Nations leaders France merely on points difference, following hard-earned 21-16 and 25-24 wins over 14-men Ireland and Scotland respectively in the opening two rounds.
Defending champions England have struggled to find their best form however, falling to an 11-6 Calcutta Cup defeat at home to Scotland in their opener, before bouncing back with a 41-18 win over Italy.
Eddie Jones’ men will be looking to keep their hopes of back-to-back Championship titles alive with success in the Welsh capital, having triumphed 24-13 en route to Autumn Nations Cup glory in Llanelli in November.
Principality Stadium is renowned for its intimidating atmosphere but Scarlets star Owens – who won his 81st Test cap at BT Murrayfield in Round 2 – is confident the 2019 Grand Slam winners can up their game in the empty arena.
“It obviously does have an effect not having a crowd because you feed off the energy of the fans and that atmosphere pushes you on,” said Owens, 34.
“But it’s something we’ve got to deal with and learn to adapt to. We’ve had enough time and everybody’s in the same boat.
“As a professional player there’s no real excuse. You have to find your own motivation and the energy to play at the intensity needed at Test level.
“So far it feels exactly at the level we’ve had in previous years playing in the Six Nations. The two games we’ve played have been really physical, top-end Test matches.”
Having registered a fifth-place finish last year in Wayne Pivac’s first Guinness Six Nations as head coach, Wales have already bettered their win tally this time around and would claim the Triple Crown with victory over the Red Rose.
And while a potential clean sweep of wins remains on track, Wales’ gradual improvement throughout the first two instalments of the 2021 Championship reminds Owens of the team’s title-winning exploits from two years ago.
He added: “No-one really expected anything from us coming into the competition this year – we’ve gone under the radar in the first two weeks.
“But it’s similar how the games are set up, a week off leading into England with areas to improve and step up. It’s about momentum and keeping it up there.”