Wales braced for England response
January 25, 2010
Ian Gough is expecting a big response from England © Getty Images
Ospreys lock Ian Gough does not believe that England's poor showing in the Heineken Cup will have any bearing on their Six Nations campaign.
Northampton were the only English side to qualify for the last eight of Europe's top competition, but Gough insisted that any disappointment would have subsided by the time Wales arrive at Twickenham on February 6.
Gough joined the rest of the Wales squad at their first day of training on Monday after helping the Ospreys into the last eight following a controversial win over Leicester.
"It is a bit of a confidence blow for them, to be honest," he said. "They have always had a very strong representation at this stage of Europe, and I am sure they will be very disappointed.
"Either way though, the players are in a different camp now. England are a very professional outfit, and it's about what they do over the next couple of weeks. It might be a confidence blip now, but two weeks is a long time in rugby. It's a big time for England - they are under a lot of pressure.
"Results and performances haven't gone their way, so they are still striving, but it only takes a bit of a purple patch to get that confidence up."
Wales also saw Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets into the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup after victories over Harlequins and Brive respectively.
"It has been a good couple of weeks," Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said. "The Ospreys have delivered in Europe, the Scarlets produced the goods in Brive and the Blues delivered at Quins a week after beating Sale.
"But we have all played in England versus Wales games, and it is what happens in those 80 minutes that count. Our players will have gained a huge amount of confidence and self-belief, but they know it's a different game in two weeks' time.
"The Heineken Cup is an important barometer, and the players have had a good hit-out in that. Our sole focus now is England. You win your first game in the Six Nations, and the momentum is with you. This is a big first game."