Howley applauds England preparation

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Published: Wednesday 4th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Rob Howley believes that England cranking up the volume on loudspeakers during training ahead of Friday night’s Millennium Stadium showdown against Wales typifies the “meticulous” preparation required at Test level.

England experienced a horror show on their last Cardiff visit two years ago, suffering a record 30-3 defeat as their RBS 6 Nations title hopes and Grand Slam dreams were reduced to ruins.

Stuart Lancaster’s men have been preparing to revisit the Welsh capital by training with hymns playing on loudspeakers, leaving no stone unturned in readying themselves for what awaits from a capacity 74,500 crowd.

“At a lot of stadiums in the world it’s sometimes difficult in terms of the lineout calls and the communication between half-backs,” Wales assistant coach Howley said.

“They (England) experienced that in 2013, and preparation for any international side is very meticulous. They have looked back and learnt from that experience.

“Likewise, we had the experience at Twickenham a few years ago when they had music blaring on one side of the pitch, and we found it difficult in the warm-up prior to the game.

“It’s about learning from those experiences and they are trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

While Wales field 11 survivors from two years ago in their starting XV – scrum-half Rhys Webb, prop Samson Lee, lock Jake Ball and flanker Dan Lydiate are the exceptions – just five England players remain in Lancaster’s line-up, and three others are making their Six Nations debuts.

Numerous key England personnel are absent through injury, but Howley added: “It’s a good side.

“When you can call on four (British and Irish) Lions on the bench, England are probably the only side in world rugby that can call on that experience when they have injuries. It’s going to be a tough game.

“With any player going into their first Six Nations game, it’s their ability to get up to speed with the intensity.

“It’s frenetic and about making decisions under pressure. That’s a challenge for us on Friday night as well.

“We experienced a difficult time last year at Twickenham when we were well beaten by a very good England side. We expect that side will once again turn up at the Millennium Stadium.

“Home advantage has been key and will be key on Friday. We all talk about the cauldron, but that stadium is only as good as the players’ performance.

“We just need to concentrate on what we need to do. International rugby is about small margins and we need to get them right on Friday.

“We need to start well and if we do that, the crowd will have an influence.

“We’ve got a tried and tested side, but that tried and tested side was beaten last year. Forget about what happened in 2013, it’s about the now and performing in the present.”

Wales were beaten comfortably at Twickenham in last season’s Six Nations, with only full-back Leigh Halfpenny’s goalkicking keeping them in a game that they eventually lost 29-18.

“Last year, I don’t think we were mentally right for England,” Howley said.

“I think a lot of our players were tired. I think there was a six-month hangover from a (Lions) tour in the summer.

“I think maybe what you saw in the New Zealand game in the autumn and then the South Africa game, that will be the Wales side that turns up on Friday night.

“Absolutely, we want to win this tournament. It is important we start well and the players know that.”

Howley, meanwhile, has paid tribute to Wales skipper Sam Warburton, who wins his 50th cap on Friday and continues to close in on Ryan Jones’ record for most appearances as Wales captain.

“Sam is an outstanding captain, he is probably one of the best openside flankers in world rugby and his ability in the contact area is second to none,” Howley added.

“Turnovers are hugely influential in the international game, and he will certainly have an influence in the game on Friday night.

“I am absolutly delighted for him. He is an ambassador for Wales on and off the field, and when Sam Warburton plays well, Wales play well.”

Published: Wednesday 4th February 2015 by The News Editor

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