Philips says Wales wary of Crown hype

Mike Phillips believes Wales must shut out the external hype and hysteria surrounding their Triple Crown bid today — or risk blowing hopes of a rare Twickenham win.

Wales find themselves in an unfamiliar position of heading to south-west London as firm favourites for an RBS 6 Nations showdown with unbeaten rivals England.

They have triumphed only once at Twickenham since 1988 and the average scoreline during that largely barren run is comprehensively in England’s favour.

Current form suggests a Wales victory, which would clinch a 20th championship Triple Crown and leave them requiring home successes against Italy and France next month to secure their second Six Nations title and clean sweep of coach Warren Gatland’s reign.

But scrum-half Phillips insists there is no danger of the Wales team being drawn into underestimating what awaits them today.

“It is going to be a difficult game,” said the 62 times-capped Bayonne star.

“They have won two games in the tournament, and people haven’t been giving them much credit. We know they will be going out to prove people wrong.

“People are quick to criticise, but I think it has been harsh. They have had two good wins on the road, so they must have good belief and confidence in themselves.”

Chris Robshaw vowed England’s rookie side will rise to their biggest challenge yet and hit Wales with a “much improved” performance.

England are 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.

Captain Robshaw is one of seven England players making their first Test starts at Twickenham 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 15 is dwarfed by Wales’ total of 488.

Robshaw said: “It is a big step-up but it is one we are looking forward to. These are the games we want to play in. That is when you really test yourself as a player.

“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 know our performances weren’t perfect but we have really worked on it and hopefully our attacking game will be much improved tomorrow.”

ENGLAND: B Foden (Northampton); C Ashton (Northampton), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Barritt (Saracens), D Strettle (Saracens); O Farrell (Saracens), L Dickson (Northampton); A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), M Botha (Saracens), G Parling (Leicester), T Croft (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Scarlets).

WALES: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), K Owens (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

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