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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 17:20 GMT
Tom Shanklin's column
Tom Shanklin
Tom Shanklin
Wales centre

To say I'm gutted to start this exciting new era in Welsh rugby as a replacement against England is an understatement.

A disappointed Tom Shanklin (left) after training with Shane Williams and Gareth Delve
I'm not the kind of guy who'd throw his toys out of the pram

But such is the strength in depth our new coach Warren Gatland has at his disposal, I am one of three unfortunate Lions who will have to make an impact from the bench in our Six Nations opener at Twickenham on Saturday.

I was hugely disappointed to be overlooked, but, in fairness to the coach, before he named his starting XV for England Warren told me man-to-man the reasons and rationale behind him picking Sonny Parker ahead of me at outside centre, which I appreciated.

Parker and Gavin Henson have been an effective centre partnership for the Ospreys this season, particularly in the Heineken Cup, and Warren wants to go with the proven and in-form midfield combination against the English.

I wouldn't say my omission was a shock because I've never considered my place in any team guaranteed, but I felt my performances for the Blues this season have been pretty good after a slow start.

I was pleased with my contribution in Europe, especially in the victory at Bristol where the Blues secured their place in the Heineken Cup quarter-final, but team selection is the coach's call and I respect that.

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I'm not the kind of guy who'd throw his toys out of the pram.

I once had the unfortunate nickname of Wales' super-sub but damn hard-work and desire ensured I became a regular starter that culminated in Grand Slam glory and a Lions call.

So I've won myself a Wales starting berth once and I've the determination and hunger to do it again.

I'm in good company on our replacement bench at HQ as I'm one of five established internationals that includes Stephen Jones and Gethin Jenkins, two former Wales captains and Lions stars.

That gives an indication of the depth in the Welsh squad available to a coach who I believe is top-class, and that's why I believe this is an exciting time in Welsh rugby.

Mark Ring in action in Wales' last win at Twickenham, back in 1988
We're all fed up of hearing about Wales' 20-year Twickenham hoodoo!

I truly believe now is a very good time for this Wales team to play England as we're in a no-lose position.

We've beaten England twice in our last three Six Nations meetings - and that's a decent record bearing in mind Wales' poor history against them.

But very good teams win away from home in hostile environments, we're confident of making amends for our extremely disappointing World Cup campaign - and we're all fed up of hearing about Wales' 20-year Twickenham hoodoo!

This is England's first game since their surprise World Cup final appearance where they lost to South Africa in Paris, and it's our first meaningful Test since our World Cup to forget so many have written off a Wales win. Good.

Wales like the underdog tag and Wales like playing England first in the Six Nations... remember 2005 and Gav's kick?

Hopefully everyone will underestimate Wales because we've enjoyed some intensive preparation as we're all desperate to impress our new coach.

We're up for this Six Nations and in the mood to right some wrongs.

*Tom Shanklin was speaking to BBC Sport Interactive's Peter Shuttleworth

SEE ALSO
Six Nations pundit predictions
28 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations Young Guns 2008
27 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
31 Dec 07 |  Wales


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