Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Power Struggle Rests on the Battle at No 10

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Power Struggle Rests on the Battle at No 10

Article excerpt


RARELY does a day go by when there is not an issue at No 10 and it will be no different in Cardiff tomorrow.

While Gordon Brown waits to replace Tony Blair in Downing Street, two new pretenders will be on show at the Millennium Stadium in rugby's most pivotal position.

When England travel to Wales in the last match of this year's RBS Six Nations championship, those lucky enough to be among the 72,000 crowd could be witnessing the start of a new dynasty at fly-half for both sides.

Toby Flood made his first start in place of Jonny Wilkinson last weekend in the win over France and Welshman James Hook has been entrusted to do the same tomorrowafter Stephen Jones was ruled out of the match with a broken wrist.

Both players are 21, but Flood is three inches taller and two stones heavier than his Welsh rival, who has the edge in experience.

Osprey player Hook made his home debut for Wales against Australia last November, coming on for Jones and scoring 13 points, while Flood helped himself to 16 of his own as the French dream of another Grand Slam ended last weekend.

But pride and passion always heightens the tension between England and Wales and there will be a lot of pressure on both No10s tomorrow.

The Newcastle Falcon player Flood will feel it more. The vast majority of the crowd at Twickenham were with him on Sunday - the reverse will be true in Cardiff, and coach Brian Ashton will be praying his team do not fold as they did during the record defeat to Ireland in Dublin.

Ashton has challenged his players to prove they have the "bravery" to unleash a dynamic attacking strategy against winless Wales, and key to this will be Flood's performance.

England could clinch the Six Nations title and consign the Welsh to the wooden spoon, but a France win over Scotland looks certain to give them the championship crown, no matter what Ireland do against Italy, with points difference the deciding factor.

Ashton said: "We have to be brave enough to play with the same rugby as we did against the French in a hostile environment. What pleased me most about our win was the shift in mindset. …

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