- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

LENS, France (AP) - Wales star Gareth Bale described England as the “enemy” in one of his many incendiary comments in the build-up to their European Championship game on Thursday, but England coach Roy Hodgson is adopting a different tone about the all-British match.

“It’s a game between brothers,” Hodgson said Wednesday, in a remark that will likely be viewed with both bemusement and amusement from the Welsh population.

For Wales, the game in Lens is one of the biggest in its recent history - a rare chance to meet its bitter rival and neighbour on the big soccer stage. The Welsh are playing in a major tournament for the first time in 58 years.

England captain Wayne Rooney, however, talked about it as just another game and wasn’t ready to go toe-to-toe with Bale in the mind games.

“We’re just focused on preparing for the game,” said an unflustered Rooney, refusing to bite on one of many questions about Wales’ recent straight-talking in Wednesday’s pre-match news conference.

Hodgson rolled his eyes when asked if remarks from the Welsh camp were getting under his players’ skin.

“If we really took it seriously . and allowed it to affect our concentration, we’d be very ashamed of ourselves,” Hodgson said. “Talk is talk. Action on the field is action on the field.”

Wales coach Chris Coleman said after the group-stage draw was made that England was the opponent he didn’t want to face, because of the “circus” that goes with it. And Coleman said he is fed up with all the “small talk.”

“They are grown men,” Coleman said. “They can’t be afraid to give our opinions. It was always going to turn into this, but it’s irrelevant. Let’s just get down to business.”

Bale has been a central figure in the build-up to the game and he’s set to play a major role in the match, too.

The Welsh rely heavily on the Real Madrid forward, who scored seven and was provider for two of Wales’ 11 goals in qualifying. Bale, the world’s most expensive player, also scored a free kick to set Wales on its way to a 2-1 win over Slovakia in the first group game.

Rooney described Bale as a “fantastic player” - England midfielder Adam Lallana ranked Bale among the world’s top five players when asked about him on Tuesday - but the England captain said his team shouldn’t be preoccupied by Wales’ superstar.

“It’s not England vs. Gareth Bale,” Rooney said, “it’s England vs. Wales.”

The match is being labelled a Premier League game on an international stage, given that 19 of the likely starters play in England’s top flight.

“That adds spice and interest,” said Hodgson, whose team drew 1-1 with Russia in their opening Group B game. “That’s something I can only welcome. If anything, it heightens the occasion, rather than lessens it.

“Many people in Britain are looking forward to this game, we certainly are, and maybe around the world.”

Coleman said it will be “physical and aggressive.”

“As soon as that whistle goes tomorrow, both teams will be at it,” Coleman said. “It’s going to be a typical British game.

“But you must keep control in these games. My team talk to my players, I’ll need to make sure they are focused and calm, because we have to make sure that the game and occasion doesn’t get the best of us.”

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