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Six Nations: England primed for hostile Welsh reception

2011 Six Nations Championship - Wales v England
Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Friday, 4 February Kick-off: 1945 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One from 1930 (red button from 1900); listen on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio Wales; plus live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles

Jonathan & Jerry assess Six Nations rivals

Jonathan Davies and Jeremy Guscott assess the Six Nations teams

England manager Martin Johnson has urged his side to use the hostile reception that is sure to greet them in Cardiff on Friday to their advantage.

Johnson's side face Wales at the Millennium Stadium in an eagerly-awaited opening Six Nations fixture.

"Being an Englishman this weekend in Cardiff means you aren't the most popular, which is great," he said. "I'd rather that than polite indifference.

"You have to enjoy it. You want to play in the big games. We have to be ready."

Johnson names his team at 1200 GMT on Wednesday, when he will also confirm who will replace the injured Lewis Moody as captain, with centre Mile Tindall tipped to take over.

The Millennium is a great place to play - the most hostile in the Six Nations for an Englishman

Martin Johnson

The main decisions facing Johnson are the make-up of his back five in the scrum after the loss of Courtney Lawes and Tom Croft, as well as Moody, to injury.

Leicester's Louis Deacon could start in place of Lawes in the second row with Simon Shaw carrying a slight injury from his last Wasps outing against Toulouse.

James Haskell is likely to replace Croft at blind-side flanker, while the athleticism and aerial prowess of Northampton's uncapped Tom Wood, 24, could earn him a Test baptism at open-side, where Hendre Fourie is also a contender.

If a full debut in Cardiff would be a daunting prospect for Wood - the last England player given that honour, Mathew Tait, had a miserable experience in 2005 - Johnson has told his players to enjoy the occasion and be ready for what awaits them in the bear pit of the Millennium Stadium.

"The Millennium is a great place to play - the most hostile in the Six Nations for an Englishman," added Johnson, who captained England the last time they won in Cardiff in 2003.

It's Wales v England so there's enough bad blood there for it to spark over anyway

Chris Ashton

"The stadium being in the middle of Cardiff means it is all very tight with a good bus journey. They want to beat England at rugby - that is not a secret and we want to win down there.

"It is a great occasion for an Englishman to go to Cardiff and play. The opening game of the tournament in a World Cup year adds something."

A third of England's starting line-up could be playing their first Test in Cardiff, with full-back Ben Foden, wing Chris Ashton, centre Shontayne Hape, scrum-half Ben Youngs and prop Dan Cole also yet to experience the occasion.

Ashton, whose stunning end-to-end try against Australia in November has been named the International Rugby Players' Association try of the year for 2010, is relishing the opportunity of stepping into the Dragons' lair.


It was the prospect of nights like Friday at the Millennium Stadium that persuaded him to switch from rugby league in 2007, with the game given added spice by Wales coach Warren Gatland's comments about England hooker Dylan Hartley.

"It was a massive part of it," he said. "This doesn't happen in rugby league. You don't get these kind of games. It's massively exciting, I can't wait.

"Listening to what Johnno [Martin Johnson] says, I'm just so excited about the prospect."

Ashton got a taste of what he can expect in Northampton's fiery Heineken Cup encounters against the Cardiff Blues.

"They were two hard games. That's what you get when you play a team like Cardiff. I'd like to think when a game is finished the game is finished," added the 23-year-old.

"This week it's Wales v England so there's enough bad blood there for it to spark over anyway.

"We didn't get a good start in the autumn, when we let ourselves down against New Zealand. We don't want to do that again.

"We don't want a slow start and this is the perfect chance and place to get going."

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see also
Davies calls for Hartley sledging
31 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Fourie in fitness race for opener
27 Jan 11 |  English
Johnson backs Hartley to respond
26 Jan 11 |  Rugby Union
Gatland questions Hartley value
25 Jan 11 |  Welsh
England call up Dowson and Wood
24 Jan 11 |  Rugby Union
England suffer Moody injury blow
18 Jan 11 |  English
Wales 23-15 England
14 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales 27-18 England
17 Mar 07 |  Rugby Union
Wales 11-9 England
05 Feb 05 |  Internationals

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