Tom Croft has backed England to show that there is no fear factor associated with playing in front of an expectant Twickenham when they host Wales next weekend, despite being 5/4 outsiders to beat Warren Gatland’s side.
England have gone some way to puncturing the national mood of disappointment which followed their unsuccessful World Cup campaign last autumn with victories over Scotland and Italy, but Wales represent a huge step up in class.
The World Cup semi-finalists and Six Nations pacesetters are 4/6 to claim a rare win at Twickenham on Saturday and secure the Triple Crown, with the fact that it is England’s first home game since last August considered an advantage for the visitors.
Flanker Croft disagrees though, saying: “I am really looking forward to the game and obviously playing at Twickenham is massive, especially for those guys currently sitting on two caps.
“I don’t buy into the argument that it is harder to play in front of your home fans and if anything playing at Twickenham gives you that extra five or ten per cent in terms of that excitement you feel even before you play the game.”
The statistics appear to vindicate Croft’s conviction, as England have won their last four encounters at their national stadium and six of their last seven, with the last of those triumphs achieved against Wales, and Australia and France also conquered.
As much as two away wins and a willingness to make changes have earned interim coach Stuart Lancaster praise, he will know that the impending clashes with Wales, France and Ireland will decide whether he has a long-term future in the role.
If he can negotiate a way past Wales in the first of that daunting triple header, England will take over as leaders and – depending of France’s fortunes – possibly favourites too, whereas the holders are currently third in line at a distant 9/2.