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Williams: Saint pretending over England backlash.

Byline: By Wales on Sunday

Beware England's backlash - that's the message to his former Welsh colleagues from Northampton Saints lock Steve Williams.

The 34-times capped forward plays his club rugby with England World Cup heroes Steve Thompson, Matt Dawson, Paul Grayson and Ben Cohen and knows how much they are hurting after their shock defeat to Ireland.

'I saw Steve Thompson two days after and he was very down,' said Williams.

'All the England players were bitterly disappointed, although Steve said they all knew a defeat had to come.

'But that it happened at Twickenham was probably the biggest shock to them.

'Steve said they felt they hadn't played well all year and there was a determination to sort themselves out.

'They knew they played poorly, yet they still very nearly won the game and had two tries disallowed.

'That means Wales had better be wary of a backlash. The last thing they should do is try to make any capital out of the Irish victory.

'This England side are very bloody minded and they want to put things right. The England camp is on edge because they don't know what Clive Woodward will do. He's not afraid to make changes.'

England hooker Thompson was criticised for the failure of the English line-out against Ireland - the men in green lost only two line-outs while the world champions lost 11.

But Thompson revealed to Williams that a a late change in signals had affected them.

'Steve said the line-out calls were changed on Wednesday and the players were still struggling with them on the Friday,' said Williams.

'There were misunderstood calls and players were being thrown up at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Steve got a lot of stick, but he's a top hooker and an excellent thrower.

'England's scrum is very powerful and they have quality jumpers in Ben Kay, Danny Grewcock, Simon Shaw, Steve Borthwick and Chris Jones.'

But even though England will be smarting, Williams still believes it is a good time to be playing them.

'The pressure of them being world champions is weighing on their shoulders. They are there for the taking if a team rises to the challenge,' he said.

'If England play to their best, Wales won't win. But just as they showed in Brisbane, if they go in not fearing anyone they can cause an upset.

'Playing against the world champions in front of a packed house is going to be a great occasion and a great chance. It will be a chance to judge themselves against the best in the world.'
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 14, 2004
Words:432
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