I’d love to have been involved in as massive a game as Wales v England in Cardiff on a Friday night and I’m sure that it’ll provide a cracking start to this year’s RBS 6 Nations.
The Millennium Stadium is up there with the best grounds in the world. The crowd are a lot closer to the pitch, the roof is closed… and it’s filled with some of the most passionate fans in world sport. Someone described Cardiff city centre as a cold Torremolinos and anyone who’s been there will know what I mean! There will be a brilliant atmosphere around this game. Those are the days you look forward to.
England will start as favourites for the Six Nations, but will be missing a few key players early on – Lewis Moody, Tom Croft and Courtney Lawes leave them with some big holes to fill. If you’d asked me a month ago I’d have been pretty confident going to Cardiff, but with the injuries your resolve starts to sway.
England’s biggest transformation in 2010 came with the France game and the trip to Australia. I can see they’ve got the environment right. The guys are playing the rugby they want to play, and you have the right dynamic between the coaches and the players. It’s an enjoyable place to be and they’re playing some good rugby.
I’m very pleased with the way the England team is moving forward. That doesn’t mean they have all the selections right and there are a number of players I’d like to see involved with England this year – not necessarily in the starting line-up but definitely involved in the squad as they bring a lot.
Heading the list are Olly Barkley and Dave Walder. I’m a big fan of Olly. He’s a natural leader who’s a great guy to have on the field. He’s a good decision-maker and takes on leadership responsibilities in the middle of the field where we haven’t got huge strength in depth.
Toby Flood was superb in the autumn, playing immaculate, world-class rugby, but I’d have Dave around the squad too. He’s a great guy who brings balance to the game. He’s a pretty astute footballer, like Ronan O’Gara. If you want to close out a game, then Dave’s your man.
It’s pleasing to see David Strettle, who I believe has an X factor, and George Skivington in the England squad, but I’d like Dom Waldouck and Paul Sackey to challenge for a place too. Even if they don’t start, get them involved to build strength in depth. We need guys who can pull something special out of the bag.
The Six Nations steps up in World Cup year. You want to get one over your old adversaries, but in World Cup year you start developing the confidence and mental toughness to know you’ve beaten these guys. Winning the Grand Slam in 2003 played a big part in us going on to win the World Cup that year.
This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine
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