Sport

Published: Tuesday March 4, 2014 MYT 11:59:26 PM
Updated: Wednesday March 5, 2014 MYT 12:00:29 AM

England pack braced for another Wales onslaught

LONDON (Reuters) - The England forwards are ready for another searching examination of their credentials in the Six Nations match against Wales at Twickenham on Sunday.

England's scrum was dismantled by the Welsh in last year's championship decider in Cardiff but hooker Dylan Hartley believes they have improved considerably as a unit.

"The lessons have been learned from that game," Hartley told reporters on Tuesday.

"I think our forward pack has developed hugely in the last 12 months.

"I fully agree you need to be emotionally at a certain level to play rugby but you can't be over the top. We've got a job to do," he added.

England forwards' coach Graham Rowntree worked with several members of the Wales pack during last year's successful British & Irish Lions tour of Australia.

"They are very powerful. Well-drilled and very experienced," Rowntree said.

"What I mean by experienced is dealing with different scenarios thrown at you in a game and they've got that on us at the moment. We've got some young guys who are learning week by week and this is another big challenge for them."

England will again be without injured tighthead prop Dan Cole, who missed the 13-10 victory over Ireland 10 days ago, and number eight Billy Vunipola who suffered an ankle injury during the game at Twickenham.

The experienced David Wilson replaced Cole against the Irish and Ben Morgan came on for Vunipola, combining effectively with their fellow forwards to subdue the seasoned Ireland pack and help Stuart Lancaster's developing team to an important win.

Fullback Mike Brown has been England's standout performer in the tournament and his Wales counterpart Leigh Halfpenny is fully aware of the threat he poses.

"He is a great player," Halfpenny said. "He has been playing very well for a good period of time now.

"He has got a good attacking game, he's quick, he's agile, he is a player that can create something and one that we are going to have to watch.

"If you kick loosely to him, he could hurt you, so that is not something we want to be doing."

Halfpenny, one of 11 players in the probable Wales starting team who played in last year's 30-3 victory over England in Cardiff, is expecting a backlash.

"England are going to be hurting from the last game," the Lions fullback said.

"They are going to come out and want to really bring it to us. That is something we are going to have to be prepared for.

"We are going to Twickenham as Six Nations champions and we are looking to defend our title. It's going to be a huge game and one that we are hugely excited about."

(Reporting by Ed Osmond, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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