Gibe adds fuel to England's fire
February 24, 2012
Andy Farrell has sensed an extra edge during England's training this week © Getty Images
When Jonathan Davies suggested Wales would "smash" England at Twickenham, Andy Farrell texted his former Great Britain rugby league team-mate to thank him.
Davies had just helped Farrell write part of his team-talk ahead of Saturday's Six Nations showdown at Twickenham, between a rookie England side and the Triple Crown-chasing Welsh.
"People are calling us underdogs and it adds spice to the game," said Farrell, the England backs coach. "I sent (Davies) a text to thank him - I said it was brilliant news!
"Everybody is a competitive beast. Of course pride comes into it. Everybody wants to prove people wrong. There is a sense of excitement that we can and that is a big motivation for us going into the game.
"You can tell there is something different in the air as far as training is concerned. The guys are revving up for a big weekend. Wales have been playing very well of late. They are a good side and it will be a challenge for us - a new side coming home for the first time in the Six Nations. But we have been pretty good at meeting challenges head on so far."
England may be unbeaten so far this campaign but they battled to away wins against Scotland and Italy, with their only tries coming courtesy of two charge-downs from the now injured Charlie Hodgson.
Wales are more familiar with the surroundings than England, with hooker Ken Owens the only member of their starting XV not to have appeared in a Test match at Twickenham. In contrast, England have six players making their first international appearances at the stadium in the most inexperienced red rose team to play a championship match for 23 years.
England's tally of 182 caps in their reshuffled starting XV is dwarfed by Wales' total of 488 and is fewer even than the visitors boast on the bench.
Wales, who reached the World Cup semi-finals last October, have been far more potent in attack, playing with pace, tempo and continuity in their wins against Ireland and Scotland. But England captain Chris Robshaw is confident his new-look side will rise to the challenge.
"Stuart Lancaster and Graham Rowntree spoke to us in the week and said we had to raise our performance by 10%," Robshaw said. "It is a big step-up but everyone looks sharp and I think we can improve on our past performances.
"We always knew that going to Scotland and to Rome it was about getting the win. That was the most important thing. We have really worked on our attacking game and hopefully it will be much improved tomorrow. The variety in our game has gone to another level."
The loss of Hodgson to a finger injury prompted a back-line reshuffle that will see Owen Farrell start his first Test at fly-half and Manu Tuilagi return at outside centre. Scrum-half Lee Dickson, No.8 Ben Morgan and Geoff Parling have all been awarded their first Test starts after impressive spells off the bench as England rallied from nine points adrift in Rome.
The last time Robshaw played at Twickenham was for Harlequins on December 27 - when Farrell kicked Saracens to a 19-11 Aviva Premiership victory. And Robshaw is relieved they are both on the same side as the new-look England side set out to rebuild Twickenham into the fortress it once was.
"Owen pointed out to me when we went out for the captain's run that the score from the Harlequins-Saracens game was still up on the board," Robshaw said. "I am very privileged to be in the same team as him tomorrow. I have never had any doubt coming into the team. Hopefully if we can get him in the right position to make those kicks he can take them.
"It was brilliant to play at Murrayfield and Rome but to play at the home of English rugby will be very special. It is about building a reputation. That comes with hard work and hopefully we can make this place a fortress in the years to come."
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