Wales

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World Ranking: 8 Prediction: 4th

THE INSIDE VIEW

Michael Owen

Age: 25

Position: No 8

Club: Newport-Gwent Dragons

Debut: 08/06/02 v South Africa

Caps: 19 Tries: 1

What is your first memory of the Five Nations as a boy? When Wales beat England in 1989. Mike Hall scored a dubious try to win the match.

What is your abiding memory of your Six Nations debut? It wasn't good. We lost to Italy away and it was miserable. However, my second and third games, especially the match with Ireland, were a lot better.

What has been your best moment in the Six Nations? Playing against England last season. It was a good performance and we deserved something out of the game.

And the worst? The defeat to Italy in 2003 was awful.

What do you need to improve in your own game? As a player I think I need to take more responsibility, and drive the team on.

What are Wales' prospects for the tournament this year? Good. We are steadily improving and we will aim to be as good as last year, to be at the top of our game in every game. We haven't managed a big win for a while so hopefully at this year's tournament we'll get one.

If you don't win it, who will? It's really close this year but if you push me I'll say England.

Which young player do you think will catch the eye during the tournament? Gavin Henson (centre, Wales) has been doing very well recently.

And who is the best player in the world right now? Jonny Wilkinson - he's still exceptional.

Which is the most intimidating crowd on the Six Nations circuit? Big rugby grounds aren't really intimidating; it's more the team you're playing against.

What is the worst punishment handed out to you by a tour court? I'm not a big drinker so it's pretty quiet for me. I haven't had any really terrible punishments. The most I think I've drunk is 12 pints.

And the worst hangover you have ever endured? After finishing those 12.

CULTURE CORNER

What is your favourite...

Book? Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (below).

Film? In the Name of the Father.

Band? I don't have a favourite band, but I like pop music and easy listening.

TV programme? ER.

2 KEY QUESTIONS

1Will ball-winning still be a mystery? Scrum and line-out, line-out and scrum. Rugby union may have moved on in a hundred respects, but get the fundamentals wrong and you're still looking at a beating. Wales lost to England at Twickenham last season because when push came to shove, they ran out of ball. Is Adam Jones fit enough to scrummage for the full 80 minutes? Will Gethin Jenkins, a natural loose-head specialist who spends too much time anchoring the set-piece from the tight-head position, get a proper run in his optimum position? Is the elongated lock Luke Charteris a genuine million-dollar act in the air? The Welsh season depends on the answers to these questions.

2England first up: blessing or curse? The result is everything. If Wales beat their nearest and dearest in Cardiff for the first time in more than a decade, the rest of the campaign will be milk and honey. If they lose, the Samaritans' switchboard will take a real hammering.

HIGHS AND LOWS

GRAND SLAMS 1911, 1950, 1952, 1971, 1976, 1978.

TRIPLE CROWNS 1893, 1900, 1902, 1905, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1932, 1950, 1952, 1969, 1971, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1988.

OUTRIGHT WINNERS 1893, 1900, 1902, 1905, 1906, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1920, 1922, 1931, 1932, 1936, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1964. 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1988, 1994.

WOODEN SPOONS 1883, 1892, 1937, 1990, 1995, 2003.

IF WALES MADE MUSIC THEY'D BE... THE STEREOPHONICS

The last time Wales prevailed over those evil buggers from the far side of the Severn, The Stereophonics composed a ditty entitled "As Long As We Beat The English". Which just about sums it up. You could argue that the team resemble the band in that they have only three people worth talking about, but this would be inaccurate. Gareth Thomas, Shane Williams, Gavin Henson, Colin Charvis...that makes four.

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