Haskell seeks some southern spirit

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The Independent Online

James Haskell is determined to take a leaf out of New Zealand's book and refuse to be intimidated when struggling England face defending RBS 6 Nations champions Wales next weekend

.England head to the hostile surroundings of the Millennium Stadium on the back of a laboured performance in Saturday's 36-11 win against Italy that was some way below those produced over the weekend by Ireland in Dublin or Wales in Scotland.

The Millennium Stadium is one of the most hostile in world rugby - particularly for a visiting England team - but Haskell has demanded they stay united and silence the crowd.

Lawrence Dallaglio recently urged England to stop feeling sorry for themselves and Haskell has entered the Six Nations with the words of his former captain ringing in his ears.

He said: "Sometimes when you are a team and things aren't going well you work very hard on developing each player and spend a lot of time developing a gameplan and you forget there is a game of rugby, to go out and play with some confidence and get a smile on your face.

"I noticed in the autumn with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa that when they crossed the line there was a lot of camaraderie, a lot of good spirit and they weren't too worried about the errors.

"Everyone makes mistakes and yes England have made more than most, but together we have to play with confidence and that is what we tried to do today."

When New Zealand visited Cardiff in November, Wales did their best to intimidate the All Blacks by creating a stand-off after the haka. The noise in the Millennium Stadium raised the roof.

But the All Black soaked up that pressure, showed patience and eventually left with a victory.

Haskell continued: "At most grounds I don't really notice the crowd but at the Millennium Stadium you do, especially when the Welsh are going forward because you can feel compressed by the level of noise.

"I made my debut there against Wales. It was a massive game for me last time I was there. We played with the stadium roof closed and the atmosphere was incredible.

"But we are the underdogs, we are loving that. We have got nothing to lose and we have got to front up."

Wales played with pace, power and great attacking momentum at Murrayfield yesterday, winning quick ball and busting the gain-line in a way England can only dream about at present.

Haskell insisted England have learned some painful lessons from their last meeting with the Welsh in the first round of the 2008 Six Nations.

Wales, under the guidance of Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards for the first time, trailed England 16-6 at the interval before launching a dramatic comeback to win 26-19 - their first crucial step on the road to a Grand Slam.

Yesterday, Wales opened their campaign with an emphatic 26-13 victory over Scotland and Haskell added: "They have got some great players, some big ball carriers and if we sit off them and allow them to play, like we did in the second half last year, you will get badly burned.

"You have to give them their due and be as competitive as you can be. That is what I want to keep improving as a team."

Haskell was sin-binned for the second successive international after tripping Italian centre Gonzalo Canale.

Martin Johnson spent all of the autumn trying to improve England's discipline and Haskell can expect some harsh words from the coach this week.

"James' trip was silly," said Johnson.

"You have young guys playing a Test match and you say to them 'address your discipline' - but you have to hammer it in to them. They have got to understand that."