DUBAI // England will suffer "a hiding" at the Millennium Stadium today unless they cure their debilitating bout of stage fright, according to their former winger Jason Robinson. The dual code great said England are not short of talent but become blinkered by the pressure of Six Nations matches. Today they come up against the northern hemisphere's strongest side, Wales, and the denouement could be humiliating.
"Going down to Wales will be a tough test. The Welsh have been looking forward to this for a long, long time," said Robinson. "With Wales in such good form, if they continue to play the way they can do, and England continue to play the way they have been, they will get a hiding. It could be embarrassing. "Maybe it needs this to give the guys a real check that they should be working a lot harder than they are. I am hoping, like all England fans or ex-players, that we really front-up."
England could do with some inspiration from "Billy Whizz". Since retiring last year, Robinson's primary involvement with the game has been at the grassroots level. He was in Dubai this week for the open day of the Elite Sporting Academy in Nad al Sheba, which is headed up by his former Sale colleague Apollo Perelini. Despite his focus on youth development, Robinson is not ruling out a return to the top level - but he does not envy Martin Johnson in his current role as England's manager.
"I think Martin has a very difficult job," he said. "I can't see me being there. But, after playing for so long, 17 years in both codes, playing three Lions tours, three World Cup finals and winning one of them, there is so much in me to give. "I've not had any calls. They have a whole host of coaches in there anyway. What has been difficult for me to see is that we have so many talented players, who are willing to take people on week in, week out in the Premiership, playing on the edge.
"Yet when they come to the international environment people become blinkered and play conservatively. It doesn't suit them and it is not nice to watch." There is some good news for Johnson ahead of the game, however, with Shane Williams, the Wales winger, only having a 50/50 chance of being fit for the game due to an ankle injury. The Scarlets wing Mark Jones, who has not played since having his appendix removed last month, is likely to replace him.
France will drop Sebastien Chabal to the bench for today's game against Scotland. The pressure is growing on the France coach Marc Lievremont, who has lost more games than he has won since taking charge in Oct 2007. The dropping of Chabal is not the only change made by Lievremont: Fabien Barcella, Nicolas Mas and Cédric Heymans were recalled to the starting XV, while the three-week ban for Florian Fritz for three weeks for punching has meant Benoît Baby gets the nod.