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Hibbard: Bring on the scrum battle

Wales hooker Richard Hibbard is relishing the prospect of a genuine, no-holds-barred scrum battle against England on Saturday.

The critical set-piece area has sometimes been reduced to a lottery in this season's RBS 6 Nations championship, either through repeated re-sets or what could be described as officious refereeing. But Hibbard believes this weekend's encounter has every chance of living up to expectations.

"You have got to have that little bit of fear going into the game," he said. "If you don't, and you take things for granted, you will get absolutely destroyed. They (England) would be one of the better packs in the competition. They are well-drilled, like most English packs are."

He added: "You just look at the league their players play in. Most teams want to get scrums in the Premiership, so it's going to be a good contest and a good scrum. The good thing is that both teams want to scrum. We want to see who is the strongest, rather than who is going to cheat the best.

"So it will be a real good contest, and with Steve Walsh refereeing, he does like a good contest. He will let the scrum go, so it will be a good battle. He likes a contest in the scrum and he likes to see who is really dominant. He doesn't want to be giving free-kicks."

The front-row meeting will include Hibbard's head-to-head with young England hooker Tom Youngs - or an experienced Dylan Hartley, if he is recalled - and Hibbard added: "Whoever plays, it is going to be a tough contest. It's going to be a long afternoon either way, but I am excited about it."

Wales will be without injured captain Ryan Jones on Saturday after he broke a bone in his shoulder against Scotland at Murrayfield. It is a major blow for the reigning Six Nations champions after Jones led them to three successive away wins, but Wales are not short of alternatives.

Flanker Sam Warburton, last season's Grand Slam captain, would be one option, but lock Alun-Wyn Jones is thought to be a major contender, while prop Gethin Jenkins - if he is recalled after injury - has also done the job before.

"Ryan is an exceptional leader," Hibbard said. "He leads from the front, and he is a massive loss to our team. Alun-Wyn is the same as Ryan. He is a really passionate leader. He really does give it 100% from his heart, and the boys respond to that. They follow him into the battle.

"The man is a machine. He comes back (from injury), having not played, and then he played like he did against Scotland. It's all down to him. You should see how hard he trains when he is injured - I have never seen anything like it."


From Belfast Telegraph