England craft 'mini-Millennium'

2015-02-04 18:04
Stuart Lancaster (Getty)

London - The usual peace of the Surrey countryside was shattered on Wednesday as England were put through their paces to a deafening backdrop of "Hymns and Arias" - Welsh rugby's adopted anthem that will be given full voice in Cardiff on Friday.

Two years ago England fell apart in the second half of their final match of the Six Nations in the melting pot of the Millennium Stadium, with players complaining they could not hear each other even when standing side by side.

Wales won that game 30-3, destroying England's grand slam aspirations, and coach Stuart Lancaster has no intention of allowing his players to suffer a similar communications blackout when they kick off their campaign on Friday night.

A capacity crowd, many of them fuelled by a day's drinking, will try to play their part in driving Wales to another victory -- just as the Twickenham fans did on another memorable afternoon last season.

"It's just a way of trying to replicate for the players who haven't been there, examples of sounds they'll hear there and how it reverberates and show them how clear your communications have to be," Lancaster told reporters at the team's Pennyhill Park base after his staff had set up speakers all round the team's indoor facility.

"It just gives them a chance to prepare - but we haven't had it on all week because we don't have the eardrums for it".

Hymns and Arias, released by Welsh folk singer Max Boyce in 1971, has become a standard song for Welsh rugby crowds, whose spine-tingling renditions help make the Millennium one of the most atmospheric stadiums in world sport.

The volume is often amplified by the closure of the retractable roof, though Lancaster has the final word on whether it will be open or closed.

"We have to decide by the end of today but if the weather is set fair we'll probably want it open," he said.

Lancaster named his team for the match earlier on Wednesday, when, after a slew of injuries, he was forced to considerably shakeup the side who beat Australia last time out in November.

Dan Cole, who has not played internationally for a year, is one of those recalled and is one of only five starters who began in Cardiff in 2013.

"That was one of the best and noisiest environments I've ever played in," Cole told reporters.

"We play to win of course but to be involved, well I won't say it the game was one of the highlights of my career but it was certainly one of the most memorable ."

Read more on:    england  |  six nations  |  stuart lancaster  |  rugby


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