herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Phillips hushes the hype

ENGLAND v wales, TWICKENHAM

TODay 3.0 (LIVE RTé2/BBC1)

MIKE Phillips believes Wales must shut out the external hype and hysteria surrounding their Triple Crown bid -- or risk blowing hopes of a rare Twickenham win.

Wales find themselves in an unfamiliar position of heading to south-west London as firm favourites for a Six Nations showdown with unbeaten rivals England.

They have triumphed only once at Twickenham since 1988 -- when Phillips scored the winning try to kick-start a Grand Slam season (2008) --and the average scoreline during that largely barren run is comprehensively in England's favour.

Current form suggests a Wales victory, which would clinch a 20th championship Triple Crown and leave them requiring home successes against Italy and France next month to secure their second Six Nations title and clean sweep of coach Warren Gatland's reign.

Accompanying such billing, though, comes fever-pitch expectation west of the Severn Bridge that Wales will not only beat England, but rewrite the fixture's record book by surpassing their previous-best Twickenham winning margin of 12 points -- achieved in 1976.

It is potentially a dangerous trap to be snared by, especially as England are showing clear post-World Cup revival signs under the impressive Stuart Lancaster.

Scrum-half Phillips insisted there was no danger of Wales under- estimating their rivals.

"It is going to be a difficult game," said the 62 times-capped Bayonne star. "They have won two games in the tournament, and people haven't been giving them much credit.

"They are going to be firing -- it is going to be a proper Test match."

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