Dan Lydiate can D-rail England freight train Posted about 12 years ago

Photo: Jeanfrancois Beausejour, Monaco

The media are building Wales up as favourites ahead of Twickenham, but that is a game I don’t play. All that matters is our psyche. It is not enough just to deal with the expectation. We need to be comfortable with it.

If you aim to be successful, as Wales do, you cannot be content with being underdogs all the time. Winning has to become the expectation. But England will also expect having, like us, won their opening two matches. The winners will be in a strong position ahead of the final two rounds and the supporters will start to talk of Grand Slams.

England are always difficult to beat. I am not sure what happened to them in the World Cup: before the tournament I thought they had it in them to make the final having won the Six Nations and beaten Australia the previous autumn.

I was surprised by the way it went for them, but they only lost one game and qualified for the quarter-finals at the head of their group. In no way could they be described as a bad side. While I will only start watching their Six Nations matches this campaign in the coming days, victories at Murrayfield and in Rome in difficult conditions are notable.

We know it will be tough. England have not lost many matches in the previous 12 months. Playing England is not unlike facing South Africa: you wake up the following morning feeling you have been hit by a train. They are very physical, strong in the set-pieces and have a good go-forward.

People have criticised their style, but the beauty of rugby for me is that there are many ways of playing. Scotland posed a different threat to the one we had encountered in Ireland a week before and England will be different again. It would be pretty dull if everyone played the same.

Ireland have an exciting back division and a back row that needs containing, while England are a real threat at forward. We have started well, with six tries from the three-quarters in our two games, but we know we still have work to do. We have in no way fulfilled our potential.

The World Cup was a landmark for us and we have built on that this month. There has been no drop-off in performance even though we have been hit hard by injuries: I have only played one half so far and will resume full training this week after suffering a dead leg in Dublin.

Much was made during the World Cup of how the younger players set the standards in terms of behaviour, but everyone bought into it. I have always looked up to the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, the ultimate professional, and leading Olympians.

They show that you do not get to the top by cutting corners. You have to make sacrifices, and not having a few beers in midweek is nothing. A professional attitude should be a given and senior players in our World Cup squad, such as Mike Phillips, Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, set an excellent example.

That professionalism has shown again this month but we are going to have to step it up again on Saturday. There have not been many times in the last generation when Wales have been expected to do anything at Twickenham and we have to focus on what we are good at.

The breakdown will be huge, as it always is. We have had three players at open-side so far: me, Justin Tipuric, my replacement in Dublin, and Aaron Shingler against Scotland. I thought Justin and Aaron both did remarkably well, proof of the strength in depth we now have compared to a few years ago.

It will interesting coming up against Chris Robshaw. He has not had many caps, but he is an experienced club player and captain who leads by example. We have worked hard to make the breakdown work for us and it is an area that is about far more than back row players.

All the forwards have a role, as do the outside backs. There are not many more effective players in the tackle area than Brian O’Driscoll. Dan Lydiate is Wales’s unsung hero to me: he gets through an enormous amount of work every match, but much of it appears to be unseen.

The build-up will be big this week. My pre-match ritual has changed this tournament because we no longer have a psychologist in camp. I used to spend time with him picturing myself in some match situations, but now it is a case of getting up, having some breakfast, doing line-out drills and getting to the ground.

We will be back in Wales on Saturday night. Nathan Cleverly is defending his WBO light heavyweight title against Tommy Karpency in Cardiff and a number of the boys want to see the fight. And the following day my football team, Tottenham Hotspur, are at Arsenal.

A red victory on Saturday and a white one on Sunday would do me fine.

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Sam Warburton is acknowledged as one of the best openside flankers in the world. At a young age Sam has a great presence at the breakdown and a phenomenal ability to create turnover ball. Having represented Wales at all levels Warburton captained the national side for the first time in 2011 against the Barbarians, becoming the second youngest Wales captain after Gareth Edwards. Sam has won 26 caps including 10 as captain – 6 of which were at Rugby World Cup 2011, making him the youngest ever World Cup captain. Sam retired from all rugby in 2019.

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