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Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009
2009 Six Nations
7 Feb-21 March

BBC coverage | 606 | Official site

Jeremy Guscott

Former Bath, England & Lions centre

If Steve Borthwick ever had a chance to prove his critics wrong it is on Saturday against Wales - he can make a real name for himself this weekend.

Alun Wyn Jones soars to claim line-out ball in last weekend's win against Scotland
England need to attack the Welsh line-out if they are to stand any chance

The England captain has been picked as a leader, as an organiser and as a thinker. He is a player who's supposed to do the right thing at the right time.

On Saturday that means he has to attack the Welsh line-out because I believe that is their biggest weakness.

He and Nick Kennedy are among the top half-dozen performers in that area in the Guinness Premiership - they have to dismantle Wales' line-out.

England may have beaten Italy but they go into the game on the back of plenty of criticism of their performance.

They are under the microscope but they just have to cope with everything that's being thrown at them.

There's nothing better as a team than being criticised and being the underdog, although the only way to answer your critics is with a result.

I won't forget England beat Italy, but I will constructively criticise players who have performed poorly - I'm only saying what they will hear in their team environment from their managers and coaches.

Out wide there is no doubt Wales have the advantage, with or without Shane Williams, because of their magical backs

England manager Martin Johnson will now be telling his players to put the Italy game behind them, because the tactics that day were to kick, to chase and to pressurise the Italians to get them to concede penalties and force them into mistakes that would lead to tries.

England did that, with massive help from Mauro Bergamasco, who was totally out of position at scrum-half for Italy, but the gameplan will change for Wales.

England will try to play a bit more of an open game and I don't think there will be as much kicking.

In addition to attacking the Welsh line-out they will try to launch centre Mike Tindall into the midfield, and there will be more use of back-rowers James Haskell, Joe Worsley and Nick Easter as ball carriers.

Joe Worsley on the charge for Wasps
The recalled Worsley can carry be a big ball carrier for England

They have to make the hard yards by attacking the ball, attacking the defensive line and getting over the gain line.

One area where England are used to having dominance is in the scrum, but the Welsh scrum has improved beyond belief.

In Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Matthew Rees, Ian Gough and Alun Wyn Jones, Wales have a tight five that is a very useful unit.

Over the years England may have had superiority in the scrum but can Phil Vickery, Lee Mears and Andrew Sheridan step up this time?

Out wide there is no doubt Wales have the advantage, even without Shane Williams, because of their magical backs.

England fly-half Andy Goode has to kick well and the chase has to be good this week because otherwise the Welsh back three will terrorise England.

In the lead-up to the game Wales coach Warren Gatland has suggested England have "regressed" and are "disjointed" but I wouldn't put too much weight on his words.


It's just a bit of psychology from Mr Gatland - he's open for a bit of banter and he's in a good spot at the moment, so why not?

It's just a bit of stirring to get people talking, but it's not inflammatory, because what he's saying is the truth.

The only way to respond to it is to either do something different, or win in the style that has been criticised.

The England camp will shrug off Gatland's words but it will also hit home - England have gone backwards.

Reaching the final of the 2007 World Cup looks like a blip in a downwards spiral which is reflected in the recent performances and results.

On paper it looks like a comfortable victory for Wales. Sport has a funny habit of throwing up surprises, but you have to say that looks unlikely at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Jeremy Guscott was talking to BBC Sport's James Standley.

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see also
Wales v England (Sat)
13 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Borthwick calm despite criticism
12 Feb 09 |  English
Jeremy Guscott column
10 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Scotland 13-26 Wales
08 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England 36-11 Italy
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Review - 2008 Six Nations season
02 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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