England captain Chris Robshaw is desperate to get one over two-time defending Six Nations champions Wales this weekend ahead of the old rivals’ World Cup clash next year.
Tomorrow’s match is to be Wales’ final visit to England’s headquarters at Twickenham before they return for a potentially decisive match in a World Cup group which also involves Australia.
Only two teams from the pool can go through to the knockout stages, meaning one of rugby’s major nations is set to suffer the heartache of an early World Cup exit.
Earlier this week Wales coach Warren Gatland, a lover of pre-match mind games, tried to increase the pressure on England by saying: “We have two big games at Twickenham in the World Cup against England and Australia. If we can win on Sunday, that is four in a row [against England] and if we then win the Six Nations as well, you start having a few doubts.”
England have yet to beat Wales under coach Stuart Lancaster and skipper Robshaw is well aware that the enormity of the fixture stretches beyond a match involving two of the teams currently locked in a four-way tie at the top of the Six Nations table.
“We play at Twickenham in the pool stages of the World Cup and of course there’s still next year’s competition as well,” Robshaw said.
“If Wales win every game going into the World Cup, it’s not going to fill you with confidence, is it?” the Harlequins flanker added. “You want to make sure you can get one over on them and get the results when it matters.”
Quite the worst of the three successive defeats England have suffered at Welsh hands came last year when, one match away from a Grand Slam, they suffered a record 30-3 rout in Cardiff.
However, having since beaten the likes of Australia, Argentina and Ireland, Robshaw is convinced the England team are a very different side to the one that suffered such a mauling at the Millennium Stadium.
“We probably switched off a little bit, chased the game too early and eventually it played into their hands. By that stage the game was gone and it was a long way back,” Robshaw said.
“We’re now a lot better at dealing with those situations, about how we get back into the game. Last year doesn’t have too big an influence on Sunday. Of course it was disappointing and they are a side that have beaten us and we haven’t beaten them,” he added.
“But look at what is up for grabs for us on Sunday — a Triple Crown [beating all the other Home Unions in a single Six Nations season] and that’s massive. There’s too much at stake this year to worry about what happened before,” he said.
“We’ve come a long way since then. As forwards we talk about this all-court game, about mixing it up, playing what’s in front of us. And the backs have come on massively. You look at the way they are playing at the moment, scoring tries and creating things. The [No.] nine and [No.] 10 [scrumhalf Danny Care and flyhalf Owen Farrell) are putting us in the right place, bossing the team around. They’ve been outstanding,” Robshaw added.