Cardiff braced for big kick-off

The Millennium Stadium is primed for the RBS 6Nations opener between Wales and England. [more]

Cardiff braced for big kick-off

The Millennium Stadium is primed for the RBS 6Nations opener between Wales and England.

Eighteen previous Lions will be on display in the mouth-watering Championship opener, 11 lining-up in the red of Wales seven for England.

Both sides are desperate to kick-off their campaigns with a bang especially with the added significance of a World Cup at the end of the year.

Wales have not won in seven games and have only won two of their last 13 encounters. Their last win came against Italy in last year’s Six Nations but with the exception of Fiji, all of their later games were against the Southern Hemisphere’s big three.

Wales kicked-off their Grand Slam seasons, in 2005 and 2008, with wins over England and they are hoping they can continue the sequence in 2011.

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"I can't underestimate the importance of this first game,” said Stephen Jones a two-time Lions tourist.

“We can't afford sloppy errors and we have to be accurate. We’ve spoke about what happened in 2005 and 2008. Momentum is key and we must be successful.

"If we deliver in all aspects of our game-plan then I'm confident. We have a very talented back line but the big challenge is to mix what we have and know when to use them.

"We have to manipulate their defence whether that's by attacking or with a kicking game.

"But with the players we have we would be foolish not to get the ball in their hands. When we have quick ball we have to get it to the likes of Shane Williams and James Hook. But you have to earn the right to do that."

Meanwhile England are equally desperate to hit the ground running. They have not won at the Millennium Stadium since 2003 but enter the competition as favourites after their impressive autumn campaign.

Lions legend and current England coach Martin Johnson captained the Red Rose on that victorious outing in 2003 and he has called on today’s crop to put in a big performance.

“We have to put them under pressure,” said Johnson.

“We can't give them any easy outs, any easy scores, no easy release from that pressure.

“If we get to the last quarter and they are behind, that is where we want to be, with them thinking about the possibility of another defeat. That is the mental side of the game

“We have to perform at a consistent level. We have to set our standards very high, so that if we don't quite reach them we are still pretty good. The All Blacks' worst performance is still pretty good.”

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