Sat, Mar 20, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Woodward bullish ahead of Wales tie


England coach Clive Woodward has insisted the world champions' Six Nations defeat against Ireland last time out was the "best thing that could have happened" to his side; today's match against Wales here at Twickenham will help tell if he was right.

"I won't allow those standards to slip again. The players are under no illusions in terms of the standards I expect everyone to set from me downwards," Woodward said.

Ireland's 19-13 win ended England's 22 Tests unbeaten run at Twickenham. But Woodward admitted his men had been distracted by off-field issues with many suspecting that players' desire to cash-in on their World Cup fame had seen them neglect the on-field basics.

Ireland's victory was built upon their lineout dominance.

Woodward's response has been to recall fit-again second row Danny Grewcock and dropping flanker Joe Worsley for athletic Sale forward Chris Jones, who has played the bulk of his club career as a lock.

In the backs, Bath center Mike Tidall returns for his first Test since November's World Cup Final after an ankle injury, his recall meaning Woodward is able to switch dangerous runner Jason Robinson to a more familiar full-back role.

Six Nations champions England won the teams' last encounter with a 28-17 World Cup quarterfinal victory in Brisbane but only after Wales had scored three tries in an epic match.

But the fact remains that Wales -- beaten in two of their three Six Nations matches this season -- have not won at Twickenham since 1988.

Coach Steve Hansen has made two changes to the side beaten 29-22 by France.

They are both in the front row with hooker Robin McBryde, a late withdrawal against France because of tonsillitis, and prop Duncan Jones back to stiffen a scrum that was overwhelmed by the tournament leaders as surely as England's lineout was by the Irish.

Hansen knows full well that England will exploit any similar weakness this weekend.

But ahead of his penultimate match in charge before returning to his native New Zealand to become a member of Wales predecessor Graham Henry's All Black coaching staff, Hansen was in bullish mood.

"Ireland have shown everyone that England are beatable, but England will be wanting to show the world it was a one-off bad performance.

"We need to get in their face from the first whistle and make it a competition right from the start. If we do that and use the ball we are in with a chance of winning."

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