Mike Tindall warned Warren Gatland that England have invoked the spirit of the Three Musketeers and are ready to make Wales pay for his verbal attack on Dylan Hartley.
Gatland lit the fuse ahead of tonight’s explosive RBS 6 Nations showdown in Cardiff by branding Hartley a choker and questioning his temperament.
It was a brazen attempt by Gatland to provoke the fiery Northampton captain into doing something stupid at the Millennium Stadium. Punters can get odds of 12-1 for Hartley to be yellow carded and he expects Wales to target him, just as the Cardiff Blues did in their recent Heineken Cup defeats to Northampton.
But Tindall vowed England’s tight-knit squad would stand up for their man by taking an “all for one, one for all” mentality into the game. “You have got to support your players. If anyone has a pop at one player they are having a pop at the team,” said Tindall, who will captain England for the first time tomorrow.
“That is how we have to respond as a team, get behind each other and go out there to solve the problem. “Dylan is a good enough professional to understand what is going on. I expect a big game out of him and hopefully the boys will rally around and put in the same performance for him.” It is always a fierce rivalry and that is the way it should be. We are going to honour that by playing hard rugby on the field.”
Tindall believes that collective spirit is one of the key factors behind England’s improvements over the last year.
Martin Johnson’s men go into the Six Nations as the highest ranked team in Europe and favourites to lift their first title since 2003.
“Everyone’s bought into how we are trying to run England rugby. Everyone bonds together well” Tindall said.