Let's have the spirit of '99: Wembley winners Mark Taylor and Ben Evans issue rally cry ahead of Wales v England
WALES will take the field against England today (5pm) with two heroes from 1999 arriving at the same sobering conclusion — that one mistake could settle the Six Nations title decider at the Millennium Stadium.
Ex-Swansea pair Ben Evans and Mark Taylor played in the never-to-be-forgotten 32-31 victory over the old enemy at Wembley 14 years ago.
England will be chasing a Grand Slam again this afternoon — but unlike all those years ago, Wales will also have a title to play for, needing to win by eight points to be crowned champions or by seven and managing to avoid being outscored by more than two on try count.
The scene is set for a nail-biting encounter, one that the two veterans from the Graham Henry era believe could go either way.
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Evans said: “There is absolutely nothing between the sides, so it could come down to the finest margins, perhaps a daft mistake that costs one team the game.
“Sometimes it happens like that in big games because people are so nervous.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be won on one kick.
“Discipline will be absolutely vital.”
Evans, still going strong as a player at English Championship club Moseley, reckons Rob Howley’s side will face steely opponents in the English class of 2013.
“They are a tough outfit with a good work ethic,” he said.
“Gone are the Champagne Charlies who filled past English teams. These boys are grafters.
“Stuart Lancaster took them up north to train and he has turned them into a grounded squad.
“But I like the look of Wales as well. They may not have been playing exciting rugby, but the basics of their game are in place and they are getting results.”
Wales’s first challenge will be to win the game, no easy task against opponents who are chasing a Grand Slam.
They are bidding to become the first Welsh side to win back back-to-back titles since 1979, and their challenge will be to build a victory rather than chase points from the start and end up taking needless risks.
Taylor, Gibbs’s partner in the win at the Twin Towers, said: “Wales can’t take the field thinking too much about winning by eight points. You have to let the game evolve and make your decisions accordingly.
“My guess is it will be a really tight game because they are both powerful teams with so many good players.
“Wales have shown what they are about up front over the past few games, and England are of the same ilk, with a big set-piece and forwards who don’t stop working.
“Maybe Wales don’t have the subtlety behind that they had when Shane Williams played, but they have some strong runners who are not easy to defend against.
“Goal-kicking is going to be huge.
“Owen Farrell is good, but so is Leigh Halfpenny. In Leigh, you couldn’t wish for a better goal-kicker. He is one of the best in the world.
“One mistake could decide the game. I definitely wouldn’t put my house on the outcome.
“It is going to be a brutal, brutal game.”
Gethin Jenkins will lead Wales after being handed the captaincy by Rob Howley, with Sam Warburton staying in the ranks, the latest in a long line of big calls the acting head coach has made in this campaign, most of which have worked.
He justified this one on the basis that it allowed Warburton to focus on his role at blindside flanker, with Wales needing the Blues player and Justin Tipuric to work well to counter what is expected to be a strong challenge at the breakdown.