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Winning in Wales is ultimate test – coach
9:49am Wednesday 13th March 2013 in Sport
ASSISTANT coach Andy Farrell backed England to come through the ‘‘ultimate test’’ and beat Wales in the hostile Millennium Stadium cauldron to claim their first Grand Slam for a decade.
After all, it is not like they are playing Papua New Guinea away.
Farrell has no concerns that his fearless young side will be daunted by the size of the occasion or the noise and anti-English fervour they will face in Cardiff in Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations decider.
If he was, Farrell could put it into immediate perspective by recounting the story of the time he led the Great Britain rugby league side to PNG, the most inhospitable place he ever played.
Recounting a story when he was captain for the 1996 Test at Lae Oval, Farrell said: ‘‘We were chased around the field with sticks. We had to try to jump on a mini-bus, to get away at the end.
‘‘The mini-bus was backed up to the gates, the gates open and we all had to pile on this mini-bus.
‘‘All of a sudden, everyone was hitting this mini-bus and we were saying, ‘Go, go, go’.
We left a reporter, Dave Hadfield, behind. He feared for his life!’’ The Welsh fans will be armed only with pints of beer and nothing sharper than their wit – but in Six Nations terms there is nowhere more hostile for England to chase a Grand Slam.
‘‘It is a deafening noise and we have to make sure we’re ready for that,’’ Farrell said, with little doubt that they will be.
Farrell believes England are at their best when faced with just such adversity and he senses a similar air about the squad to the week before they beat world champions New Zealand in December.
Wales have won three Grand Slams since England last swept all before them, the most recent of which was just 12 months ago when they clinched it with a victory over France at the Millennium Stadium.
That experience of winning a decisive game on ‘Super Saturday’ should, in Farrell’s view, count heavily in Wales’ favour as they aim to retain the title.
But he believes England have the character to bridge that experience gap and win the Grand Slam in Cardiff for the first time ever.
‘‘When we have had a challenge thrown at us we have responded.
It is the ultimate test to go there and win – but it is where we want to be.
‘‘Internally, we set out at the start talking about Grand Slams. We didn’t want to shout it from the rooftops but you want to aim as high as you possibly can do.
‘‘We’ve put ourselves in this high-pressure situation because we want to be there, to see how you do handle them.
It’s what makes great teams.
Wales have been there and done it. They have been a tremendous side over the years. They have a lot of experience and won Grand Slams.
‘‘It is going to be a tremendous challenge because experience should come through.
You would expect trophies to go with the experience.
‘‘Experience has to start somewhere and we have to be challenging to win our first trophy. To get that first trophy it comes down to your culture and belief and togetherness to get over the line.
‘‘We back our culture to try and get our first experience of silverware.
‘‘We don’t mind a bit of adversity.
It is where we have been good in our short time together.
There is a definitely a feel of that (New Zealand week) already.
‘‘The performance in that game showed a team that isn’t going to fold under pressure.
We’re in a good place for knowing what is needed for the weekend and we’ll build on that.’’