David Flatman: OK, no Grewcocks. But don't write off this relentless pack

Botha and Palmer make this a difficult team to beat, let alone smash

With every win comes increased expectation. Of course, Stuart Lancaster and his England players would rather have it this way than the other, but that initial excitement we felt at what was still an unknown is receding and this group of youngsters are becoming a proper international team. And, inevitably, they are beginning to shoulder the angst and pressure that come with this newly forged status.

Wales will provide England with their sternest test to date. France in Paris may prove even more intense, but for now there is more than enough on English plates to keep eyes and minds centred on the job in hand.

The good news for England is that they arrive on the back of two seriously impressive wins – not necessarily because of the style, but because of the grit and stubborn refusal to quit.

But – and there is a but – Scotland and Italy were and are not genuine contenders for the Six Nations title. Scotland could and arguably should have beaten England but they didn't. The underdogs in white fought like banshees and dug out the result. Italy, all big, heavy, abrasive lumps, have not yet managed to outgrow their role as a potential banana skin in this the harshest of rugby environments.

Wales, on the other hand, land at HQ in search of the Triple Crown and with a monstrous amount of experience – more than 200 caps in the front row alone. This makes them clear favourites. Expect Warren Gatland to spend a good amount of time talking up English chances, but we know this game. What has surprised me, though, is Jonathan Davies's prediction that England will be ''smashed''. This I find a little silly.

More specifically, he sees the weakness as being the forward pack assembled by Lancaster, who Davies believes lack the ability to intimidate. Now I agree there is no Danny Grewcock in there, a man who struck the same kind of primal fear into opponents as Mike Tyson, but I really don't think that player exists any longer on the international stage. Despite being the ultimate as a professional and as a physical specimen, Grewcock proved to be – perhaps along with Bakkies Botha – the last of his kind.

What England have now is a different sort of animal. Mouritz Botha and Tom Palmer do not have anywhere near the experience of the men they will be facing, nor do they seem inclined to punch the nose off everyone in the wrong-coloured jersey. What they do is seek and destroy with a relentlessness that makes them hugely effective, as opposed to hugely visible. Their workrates, allied to the huge graft of the likes of Chris Robshaw and Tom Croft, make this a difficult team to overcome, let alone smash.

Dan Cole, England's hard- working, attention-avoiding cornerstone, may be a little less knuckle-happy than his tighthead predecessor and club team-mate Julian White, but he is no less valuable for it. Put simply, he is too good and too strong to be smashed by Gethin Jenkins or anyone else, so the propaganda starts to dissolve somewhat. And did you ever see Dylan Hartley bullied? Not quite.

I was interested in the way that Wales's captain, Sam Warburton, responded when asked his thoughts on Davies's provocative prediction. In an instant he dismissed it, rightly, and did his best to assure everybody that this England pack would be taken very seriously indeed.

I don't doubt that one bit. His mates in the front row haven't got where they are by underestimating anybody. But you see, the damage is done. These comments will be etched into the minds of those labelled inadequate.

Wales really ought to win – they are a wonderful, complete team. But in England they will find an adversary full of determination, replete with proven steel and now with one hell of a point to prove.

The old mind games – some things never change.

News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore