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Jeremy Guscott questions Welsh rugby mentality

RBS SIX NATIONS - ENGLAND v WALES
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 6 February Kick-off: 1700 GMT
Coverage: Exclusively live on BBC ONE, BBC HD channel, Red Button and online, full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, live text commentary and score updates on BBC Sport website

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Guscott criticises Welsh mentality

Jeremy Guscott has questioned Wales' mentality ahead of Saturday's Six Nations opener with England.

Guscott insists the "Welsh psychology is not where it should be" as Wales went from 2008 Grand Slam champions to fourth place the following year.

The former England centre said: "I'd rather coach a Welsh side than England.

"Wales' problem is psychological as they are brilliant players but psychologically they are not as strong as an Ireland. Ireland are winners."

Wales celebrated their first Grand Slam in 27 years in 2005 but slumped in 2006 as coach Mike Ruddock controversially departed.

The Welsh then flopped at the 2007 World Cup - failing to progress out of the pool stages - but Warren Gatland inspired them to a second clean-sweep in four seasons in his first Six Nations Championship as Wales coach.

Gatland's team beat Scotland, England and Italy in the 2009 Six Nations but lost in France before a home defeat by Ireland as Declan Kidney's side won Ireland's first Grand Slam since 1948.

Wales were beaten on their summer tour to world champions South Africa before suffering autumn Test defeats to southern hemisphere superpowers New Zealand and Australia in Cardiff in November.

Wales are yet to boast a Heineken Cup winning team while three of the last four European champions have been Irish provinces Leinster (2009) and Munster (2006 & 2008).

Ex-British and Irish Lions star Guscott told BBC Wales' Scrum V: "All of that Ireland squad, with with Munster and Leinster and now with Ireland, are winners.

Guscott heaps pressure on Johnson

"They know what it is like to win and remember it whereas Welsh players seem to forget too quickly what it is all about because you can't go from being the best one season to fourth best the next.

"And in the autumn series, to be thrashed by Australia was psychologically hugely damaging so that is why Gatland, Edwards and Howley have a job on their hands.

"The Welsh, psychologically, are not where they should be."

Wales will be without first-choice scrum-half Mike Phillips (foot) for their tricky Six Nations opening trip to England.

Dwayne Peel is also absent following a recent shoulder injury.

And Lions full-back Lee Byrne, who was instrumental in Wales' first win at Twickenham in 20 years two years ago, is likely to be suspended because of his part in the Ospreys' 16-man fiasco in their Heineken Cup win over Leicester last month.

Byrne will have an appeal against the length of his two-week ban given to him by an independent disciplinary committee in Dublin.

Gatland was due to name his Wales team on Sunday but delayed the announcement until Byrne's appeal is held. That hearing is expected on Tuesday.

Wales, however, must announce their team by 1700 GMT on Wednesday according to Six Nations rules.

James Hook is favourite to replace his Ospreys team-mate at full-back when Wales face England on Saturday if Byrne's appeal fails.

Hook, whose favoured position is at fly-half, has been playing regularly at centre for his region and is expected to partner Lions man-of-the-series Jamie Roberts in Wales' midfield if Byrne's appeal is successful.

Ospreys centre Andrew Bishop, however, is likely to partner Roberts and win his ninth cap if Byrne's appeal fails and Hook switches from centre to full-back.

But experienced Cardiff Blues centre Tom Shanklin has declared himself fit after a knee injury. The 30-year-old played 74 minutes in his region's 45-24 LV= Cup win over Newcastle on Sunday.

"My knee is fine, it feels really good," the 65-times capped Shanklin told BBC Sport.

"I hope to be involved against England but it will probably go against me is that I haven't played much rugby recently. I'll keep my fingers crossed."

Leigh Halfpenny and Shane Williams are set to be on the wings after the latter's pain-free full comeback from a hamstring tear in the Ospreys' 40-19 LV= Cup defeat at the Dragons on Friday.

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Gareth Cooper is the most experienced scrum-half in the Wales squad and is favourite to partner Lions fly-half Stephen Jones at half-back despite his lack of form for the Blues.

Scarlets number nine Martin Roberts and the uncapped Richie Rees, whose impressive form has kept Cooper out of the Blues side this season, have been playing regularly for their clubs.

Wales loose-head prop Gethin Jenkins will be reunited with his Lions team-mates tight-head prop Adam Jones and hooker Matthew Rees in a formidable Welsh front row as both have successfully returned from injury.

Rees felt no ill affects of a groin injury that kept him out for two months in the Scarlets' 18-13 LV= Cup win at Wasps on Saturday while Jones continued his recovery from shoulder surgery in their defeat at the Dragons.

"Adam was excellent," said Ospreys coach Jonathan Humphreys. "He is getting better with every game."

The only other selection dilemma for Gatland seems to be who partners Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones in the second row.

Luke Charteris played in the autumn but veteran Ian Gough, looking to win his 62 Wales cap, has earned a Wales recall.

Gough's Ospreys team-mate Jonathan Thomas is also a second row contender after returning from a lengthy spell on the sidelines.


Wales' 35-man Six Nations squad:

Backs: Gareth Cooper, Leigh Halfpenny, Tom James, Richard Rees, Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin (all Cardiff Blues) Dan Biggar, Andrew Bishop, Lee Byrne, James Hook, Kristian Phillips, Tom Prydie, Shane Williams (all Ospreys), Jonathan Davies, Stephen Jones, Martin Roberts (all Scarlets).

Forwards: Bradley Davies, Gethin Jenkins, Deiniol Jones, Andy Powell, Sam Warburton, Gareth Williams, Martyn Williams (all Cardiff Blues), Huw Bennett, Ian Gough, Paul James, Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones, Jonathan Thomas (all Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Luke Charteris, Dan Lydiate (both Newport Gwent Dragons), Eifion Lewis-Roberts (Sale Sharks), Rhys Gill (Saracens).



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see also
Hook surgery delay boosts Wales
31 Jan 10 |  Welsh
Rees positive despite Byrne ban
31 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Cardiff Blues 45-24 Newcastle
31 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Wasps 13-18 Scarlets
30 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Byrne in clear for England game
02 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Dragons 40-19 Ospreys
29 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Byrne ban for Six Nations opener
29 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Wales leave out Phillips and Peel
19 Jan 10 |  Welsh
Wales 12-33 Australia
28 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales 15-17 Ireland
21 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
England 19-26 Wales
02 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Scrum V's rugby history
11 Aug 07 |  Welsh
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment


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