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Page last updated at 07:15 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

JJ highlights favourites status

Date: Saturday, 14 February Kick-off: 1730 GMTVenue: Millennium Stadium
Coverage: Live on BBC ONE, full commentary on BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and the BBC Sport website


JJ Williams
JJ Williams says the current Wales team are emulating his 1970s vintage

Wales wing great JJ Williams says the current side must learn to live with the new pressure of being favourites.

England arrive in Cardiff on Saturday for their Six Nations clash, with odds on Wales winning overwhelmingly high.

"When you are favourites it brings its own pressures on itself you know," Williams, who won 30 caps for Wales in their 1970s heyday, told Scrum V Radio.

"We were under enormous pressure even though we were the favourites because we were scared to lose."

Wales, as defending champions and Grand Slam holders, are understandably favourites, but some bookmakers have their odds as low as 1/5 favourites to beat England.

You have to go back to the great Wales sides of the '70s that Williams - who also won seven caps for the Lions - graced alongside other greats such as JPR Williams and Gareth Edwards for comparable levels of expectation.

The English press always speak a different language to the rest of the world don't they, with the arrogance they've got.

JJ Williams

Williams says that being the best, or being considered the best by the Welsh sporting public, brings its own unique pressure.

"The expectation in the country was quite similar to now, imagine if we did lose on Saturday!" Williams added.

"That was how it was back in the late '70s you know, so players are under as much pressure now as they've ever, ever been because the expectation is so high.

"The people out there expect us to win.

"We knew we were favourites but, having said that, the English press would come down and start saying, 'England can burst this bubble', that sort of thing.

"The English press always speak a different language to the rest of the world don't they, with the arrogance they've got.

"Even though they didn't deserve to be on the same park as us in those days, the English press were still saying, 'England can win, England can win'.

"Of course that then motivated us and that is what top players are all about - if you can handle that pressure."

Wales have named almost the same team as the one that won comfortably in Scotland last week, with only fit-again captain Ryan Jones added to the starting XV at blind-side flanker.

But there are injury doubts over number eight Andy Powell and wing Shane Williams, who will undergo final fitness tests on Friday.

Williams says the absence of his wing namesake, Wales' record try-scorer, would weaken Wales the most.

"It is a big blow because when Wales are struggling it's Shane who turns the game isn't it, you know?" Williams said of the Ospreys flyer.

"He is the catalyst of Wales playing this quick-pace game you know.

606: DEBATE

"Okay they're into this routine where the pack are getting better and better and they're going through phases and now they're quite dominant in a lot of the games.

"But up till early last season we were living off the cuff you know and Shane would turn it around, a couple of good passes from deep positions and off we'd go and he'd turn the game himself.

"I think the team has gone up a few steps of the ladder since then, they're now all-rounded aren't they, you know?

"There's good half-backs, there's good midfield, the back-row are comfortable, the front five have improved so much and we're a better team now.

"But when you've got a world-class player - and I use that term very strictly, world-class player - there aren't many of those around are there, and you're obviously going to miss him."



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