When it comes to playing against France nobody in the current England side can match the experience of Simon Shaw.
Shaw, who turns 38 this year, is preparing for his 12th cross-channel battle today as one of the replacements for what may be the pivotal Six Nations championship match.
If he takes the field and England win, Shaw’s overall score would be level at six wins and six defeats, with three of the losses coming in World Cup warmup matches.
Shaw’s first match against France was in 1997 when, partnering the present manager Martin Johnson, he helped England to a 20-6 lead before a French comeback earned a famous 23-20 Twickenham victory.
“I got a harsh lesson in that game when it looked done and dusted, but they somehow came back to win it,” Shaw said. “So knowing that and having played against them when they red hot and played against them when they’re appalling it’s a lesson you bear in mind every time you play them.”
Shaw said the days when a few well-chosen comments could induce a red mist in the men in blue are long gone.
“The whole game is more disciplined now and players work hard to stay in control,” he said. “In those games, when the atmosphere is really cranked up, that’s when you have to be at your most switched on.”
ITALY V WALES
Wales expect an Italy backlash when the sides meet in Rome today as the hosts look to bounce back from their 59-13 mauling by England two weeks ago.
All the hope and promise garnered from their home match against Ireland, when they led by a point with two minutes to play before Ireland snatched a 13-11 victory, was swept away by England.
Wales had bounced back from their 26-19 defeat at home to England with a 24-6 win over Scotland at Murrayfield, but assistant coach Shaun Edwards doesn’t expect things to be simple in Rome.
“Italy in Rome is a massive game and they are going to be hurting after what happened to them at Twickenham,” he said.
“We have been working hard as usual and worked on our discipline because we know that they are going to play with a lot of passion and intensity,” Edwards said. “We have to try and match that intensity and guard against the storm and try to play some attacking rugby with the ball.”