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Rugby union correspondent Ian Robertson
"England start as warm favourites - just like last year"
 real 28k

Friday, 3 March, 2000, 10:28 GMT
England out to exorcise ghost

England are unlikely to make the same mistakes
Clive Woodward's men are gunning for revenge at Twickenham on Saturday after Wales denied them the Grand Slam last season.

Six Nations Championship
England are clear favourites after a 50-18 thrashing of Ireland, followed by a consummate defensive display that earned them a 15-9 victory against France in Paris two weeks ago.

By contrast, Wales were handed at 36-3 drubbing by the French at the Millennium Stadium, although they recovered to pound resurgent Italy 47-16 in their second match.

Add to that the fact that Wales have not won at Twickenham since 1988 - succumbing by a record 60 points on their last visit - and the scales are tipped very much in favour of the home side.

Last five matches
1999 Wales won 32-31
1998 England won 60-26
1997 England won 34-13
1996 England won 21-15
1995 England won 23-9
But as with all Six Nations fixtures, there are no foregone conclusions when England and Wales collide.

The 1999 result is a case in point, with Scott Gibbs ghosting through the all-white defence to score the winning try after England had dominated for most of the match.

That said, Matt Dawson's well-drilled side, unchanged since their opening Six Nations game, is unlikely to repeat the indiscipline that sharpshooter Neil Jenkins punished so heavily at Wembley.

"I am a great believer in learning from your mistakes and they don't come much bigger than letting Wales in for the match-winning try last season," said Dawson.

Gibbs try
Wales celebrate Gibbs' try
"The damage was done at Wembley once Wales broke our defensive front line, but France never managed that."

Wales coach Graham Henry will no doubt have given some considerable thought about how to break that line again, although he is clearly aware of the scale of his task.

"England showed against Ireland last month the type of game they want to play, and just how far they've come," he said.

Henry is without his match-winning Lions centre this year, but veteran back Allan Bateman provides similar depth of experience in midfield, while his partner Mark Taylor makes his Twickenham debut.

Fullback Shane Howarth, one of Wales' 12 surviving players from last year's triumph, said trying to hold England in the same way will not be enough.

I am a great believer in learning from your mistakes and they don't come much bigger than letting Wales in for the match-winning try last season

Matt Dawson
"If we run out at Twickenham thinking we can contain England, and hopefully get Jenks in the right positions to kick goals, then we are in for a thumping," he said.

"It would be a good feather in our cap if we could split the English defence. I rate England the second-best defensive side in world rugby behind Australia."

The barnstorming running of the Quinnell brothers, Craig and Scott, will be at the heart of the attack, but it is worth noting that France repeatedly propelled bigger and heavier players into the English wall to no avail.

In fact, the defining moment of the game in Paris was when one of the smallest players on the pitch, fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, put in the mightiest hit of the day on Emile Ntamack.

With commitment like that, Wales will have to produce something really special to break their Twickenham hoodoo on this visit.

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See also:

03 Mar 00 |  Six Nations
D-day for new-look Scots
03 Mar 00 |  Six Nations
Ireland chase back-to-back dream
29 Feb 00 |  Rugby Union
England stick with winners
28 Feb 00 |  Rugby Union
Charvis earns Twickenham recall
02 Mar 00 |  Rugby Union
BBC secures Six Nations deal
19 Feb 00 |  Rugby Union
England triumph in Paris
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England's supreme team
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Intrigue at Twickenham
09 Feb 00 |  Six Nations
Johnson to miss France clash
19 Feb 00 |  Rugby Union
Try-scorer Williams celebrates debut
20 Feb 00 |  Rugby Union
Welsh record-breakers stroll home
20 Feb 00 |  Six Nations
Woodward hails gutsy conquest
Links to other Six Nations stories are at the foot of the page.