Six Nations: England to thrive in Wales - Rowntree

Chris Robshaw gets used to the Millennium Stadium roof being closed ahead of today's game. Picture: Getty
Chris Robshaw gets used to the Millennium Stadium roof being closed ahead of today's game. Picture: Getty
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GRAHAM Rowntree wants the England players to use the renowned Millennium Stadium atmosphere as a “positive” when they go for the Grand Slam and RBS Six Nations title glory this evening.

The roof will be closed for a championship decider between two of world rugby’s fiercest rivals, guaranteeing an occasion to savour. And, even though it will be a new experience for several of the England line-up – captain Chris Robshaw included – forwards coach Rowntree believes it is something the players can feed off.

“Ultimately, this young group of players have got to learn to cope with these challenges of playing away from home,” he said as rain lashed England’s Cardiff Bay hotel yesterday.

“That’s why you play the game, to play away in an atmosphere like the Millennium Stadium. But our lads have enough to worry about with their own jobs and the opposition. We don’t need to worry about the atmosphere. In fact, they can use that as a positive.”

For his part, Robshaw is relishing the occasion that awaits an England team looking to end a ten-year wait since their last Grand Slam. “People talk about the stadium as one of the best to go out and play rugby in,” he said. “We are under no illusions over how loud it will be and how important it is to prepare, to be in the right mindset for it.

“The crowd are going to be passionate – English and Welsh fans. We have quite a few friends and family coming to support us and a lot of supporters are coming over, so, hopefully, we are going to put on a good show for them.”

England, the only unbeaten team in this season’s Six Nations, will tackle a Wales side buoyant following three successive away victories. There is also the prospect of England leaving Cardiff with nothing – neither the title nor the Grand Slam – if Wales triumph by a seven-point margin or more.

“We have not spoken too much about previous form,” Robshaw added. “We have looked at the last couple of games to try to identify any strengths and weaknesses, as they will have done for us, and make something of it. But form goes out the window in games like this.”

Chris Ashton has sought inspiration from Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney in a bid to rediscover his try-scoring touch and fire England to Grand Slam glory this evening.

The Saracens wing started his England career with a bang, scoring 15 tries in his first 17 Tests, but the scores have dried up. Ashton has touched down just twice in 16 Tests since Stuart Lancaster took charge after the 2011 Rugby World Cup and he has turned to England’s sports psychologist Bill Beswick for help.

“Bill’s got a lot of experience with football and refers to a lot of footballers: Wayne Rooney and Alan Smith, Alan Shearer and others,” Ashton said. “I’ve had a good few conversations with him. He uses his experience of what he’s seen before.

“He used one with me of Shearer who went loads of games without scoring, then scored ten in a row or something. Another one is Rooney. He didn’t know how to play in a team, he just used to get on the ball all the time and shoot from wherever he was.

“It didn’t really matter until he went to [Manchester] United and understood how to play in a team – and understood his role in a team.”

RBS Six Nations Championship

At Millennium Stadium, today, 5pm

BBC1/BBC Radio 5 Live

Referee: Steve Walsh (Aus)

WALES

15 Leigh Halfpenny

14 Alex Cuthbert

13 Jonathan Davies

12 Jamie Roberts

11 George North

10 Dan Biggar

9 Mike Phillips

1 Gethin Jenkins (capt)

2 Richard Hibbard

3 Adam Jones

4 Alun-Wyn Jones

5 Ian Evans

6 Sam Warburton

8 Toby Faletau

7 Justin Tipuric

Subs

16 Ken Owens

17 Paul James

18 Scott Andrews

19 Andrew Coombs

20 Aaron Shingler

21 Lloyd Williams

22 James Hook

23 Scott Williams

ENGLAND

15 Alex Goode

14 Chris Ashton

13 Manu Tuilagi

12 Brad Barritt

11 Mike Brown

10 Owen Farrell

9 Ben Youngs

1 Joe Marler

2 Tom Youngs

3 Dan Cole

4 Joe Launchbury

5 Geoff Parling

6 Tom Croft

8 Tom Wood

7 Chris Robshaw (capt)

Subs

16 Dylan Hartley

17 David Wilson

18 Mako Vunipola

19 Courtney Lawes

20 James Haskell

21 Danny Care

22 Toby Flood

23 Billy Twelvetrees