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England urged to feed off animosity

Martin Johnson has steeled England for the most hostile RBS 6 Nations reception of them all ahead of Friday night's Millennium Stadium showdown with Wales.

England have not won in Cardiff since Johnson was captain in 2003, and he has warned his squad they will not experience a more fervent anti-English sentiment anywhere else in the championship. Johnson urged England to feed off that animosity and use it to kick-start their bid for a first Six Nations title since the Grand Slam in 2003.

He said: "Being an Englishman in Cardiff on that weekend means you aren't the most popular, which is great. I'd rather have that than polite indifference. The Millennium is a great place to play - the most hostile in the Six Nations for an Englishman."

He added: "The stadium being in the middle of Cardiff. It is all very tight with a good bus journey. They want to beat England at rugby - that is not a secret and we want to win down there.

"It is a great occasion for an Englishman to go to Cardiff and play. The opening game of the tournament in a World Cup year adds something.

"You have to enjoy it. You want to play in the big games. We have to be ready."

Johnson's message has certainly hit home.

Potentially a third of England's starting team - including the likes of Ben Youngs, Ben Foden and Dan Cole - will be playing a Test at the Millennium Stadium for the first time.

Northampton wing Chris Ashton, who will play his first Test in Cardiff, is relishing the opportunity of stepping into the Welsh dragon's lair. It was the prospect of nights like Friday at the Millennium Stadium that persuaded him to switch from rugby league in 2007.

"It was a massive part of it. This doesn't happen in rugby league. You don't get these kind of games. It's massively exciting, I can't wait," said Ashton. "Listening to what Johnno says, I'm just so excited about the prospect."


From Belfast Telegraph