Dallaglio makes Wales favourites in showdown

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The Independent Online

Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio has backed Wales to win the final game of the Six Nations championship on Saturday and deny Ireland their first grand slam for 61 years.

Wales, who recorded their 10th grand slam last season, need to beat Ireland by 13 points at the Millennium stadium to retain the title.

Dallaglio, a key member of the 2003 England side who completed the grand slam and went on to win the World Cup, told Reuters in an interview that Ireland and Wales had been the most consistent sides in the championship.

"I think it's fair that the last game to decide the championship will go down between those two," he said.

"I can tell you from my own experience that winning the last game with the grand slam on the line is a difficult thing to do.

"So while there will be lots of people cheering for Ireland, Wales will start the game as favourites regardless of the backward step they took against Italy.

An experimental Welsh side struggled to beat Italy 20-15 in Rome last Saturday.

"They still won the game, they still learned a lot about their fringe players and I would think they will start the game as favourites against Ireland," Dallaglio said. "Ireland will have to play their best game of the championship to win the grand slam.

"Ireland have a chance of making history and, trust me, if they go to Wales and do win then they will fully deserve their grand slam because it will be a tough, tough game. It's not easy to win a grand slam and winning away from home needs a different mentality."

The 36-year-old Dallaglio, who retired from all rugby last year, praised the England team for their performance in the 34-10 win over France on Sunday after winning only two of their previous seven games under new manager Martin Johnson.

"I felt we would win against France and I feel we will win against Scotland," Dallaglio said. "But I don't think any of us could have predicted how emphatic that would be.

"We've heard confidence and we've heard belief. But it's very difficult to be confident in what you are doing if you keep losing and it's difficult to play with confidence when you keep getting continually criticised.

"England haven't had that confidence and belief because the results have gone against them."

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