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Six Nations: Wales set for 'must-win' England opener

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 (BBC Wales and Red Button from 1900); listen on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio Wales; live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles


Stephen Jones
Jones could pass 100 Wales caps in their final Six Nations match in France

Talisman Stephen Jones insists Wales' Six Nations opener with England is a must-win game as Warren Gatland's team aim to start World Cup year on a high.

The veteran fly-half demands Wales perform on the "awesome occasion" as the hosts bid to end a seven-match win-less run and kick-start vital momentum.

The Welsh beat England in their opening 2005 and 2008 Six Nations and both years culminated in Grand Slam glory.

"We all realise the importance of the first Six Nations game," said Jones.

And Jones, who will win his 96th cap against England in Cardiff on Friday, hopes the three-year cycle of Six Nations clean-sweeps continue in a vital year for Welsh rugby.

"It would be nice to complete the sequence," added Wales coach Gatland.

"2005, 2008 and 2011 and we couldn't think of a better start than England at home."

Wales were humiliated at the 2007 Rugby World Cup when shock defeat to Fiji prematurely ended their progress at the pool stages.

So Wales want World Cup redemption in New Zealand this autumn and experienced British and Irish Lions anchorman Jones knows their build-up starts at the Millennium Stadium against the team Wales captain Matthew Rees call the "old enemy."

Wales star Shane Williams warns England have 'full package'

"It is a must win game for us, it is huge," Jones told BBC Sport.

"And we spoke about what happened in 2005 and 2008. Momentum is key and we must be successful on Friday night."

England have not triumphed in Cardiff since their World Cup winning year of 2003 and Wales star Shane Williams feels Wales have the quality to extend England' misery in the Welsh capital.

"The first game is the most importance as it is all about gaining momentum and confidence." said Wales' record try-scoring wing.

"And when Wales are playing with confidence, momentum and having a little luck we can beat anyone in the world.

"We'd love to win a Grand Slam as there is no better feeling but I'd just take a win on Friday."

Wales, who finished fourth with just two victories in last year's Championship, have not won since the final Six Nations game of the 2010 campaign against Italy.

"We've been disappointed with our results as we felt like we have been unlucky," said Gatland.

"If teams had put 40 or 50 points on us, then we would start to doubt ourselves.

Wales coach Warren Gatland discusses Wales and England similarities

"We feel we're really close. We must concentrate more and it is the finishing off we have to nail."

Gatland "spiced up" the big-match build-up with his personal criticism of England hooker Dylan Hartley before England boss Martin Johnson retaliated with a suggestion that the psychological warfare were the actions of a man under pressure.

Then England full-back Ben Foden waded into the war of words when he thought the visitors should put their little brothers in their place.

"In a way, we have to think 'we are England, we are the big country, we are going to put these guys in their place'," Foden wrote in his Daily Mail column.

"It feels like we are the older brother and we have to make sure we beat our younger brother. we cannot let our younger brother get the better of us."

The Millennium Stadium roof will be closed for the Six Nations opener as "all parties have agreed" due to gusty winds and rain in the Welsh capital.

Johnson had said he wanted the roof open in the 2009 fixture.



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