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HALF BACKS SET TO KICK ON

HALF BACKS SET TO KICK ON

THE SIX NATIONS KICKS OFF IN CARDIFF THIS FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE MILLENNIUM STADIUM.

LANCASTER HAS HAD THE ENGLAND TEAM TRAINING WITH LOUD SPEAKERS BLARING AT FULL BLAST IN AN ATTEMPT TO RECREATE THE CAULDRON ATMOSPHERE THEY WILL EXPERIENCE WHEN THEY FACE DOWN THE WELSH. COULD THAT ATTENTION TO DETAIL; MAKE THE DIFFERENCE?

Our rugby expert analyst, Donal Lenihan, identifies an up and coming player from each side that could play a huge role in deciding the outcome of what will be a highly physical and contentious battle.

WALES: RHYS WEBB

Mike Phillips' stranglehold on the Welsh No 9 jersey over the last few years is about to be released. The emergence of Rhys Webb for the Ospreys and Wales has breathed a new life into both back lines. It has also worked wonders for his club partner Dan Bigger who is now playing the best rugby of his career.

That pairing are set to become a fixture for Wales over the next two months and spearhead their assault at the World Cup. Webb is lightning fast in thought and deed and offers a new scoring threat around the base of the ruck and maul. That allied to the pace of his pass has offered Bigger more time and space on the ball as back rows have to keep the scrum half honest. He looks set for a great championship.

From a forwards perspective the hottest young property in Welsh rugby at present is Scarlets tight head prop Samson Lee whose form has been so good that double Lion Adam Jones has called time on his outstanding international career. Welsh scrum hopes rest on Lee's young shoulders.

ENGLAND: GEORGE FORD

After a couple of cameo appearances off the bench against Wales and Italy in last season’s Six Nations Championship, Bath's George Ford is about to take centre stage in the most demanding position on the field. Ford was always destined for international rugby, the only question mark surrounding his size in a game where power and physicality has taken over.

Despite the unfortunate knee injury to Owen Farrell, it appeared certain that Stuart Lancaster was about to put his faith in the superior game management Ford brings to the table. After positive showings in the wins over Samoa and Australia last November, Ford has been in excellent form for Bath, not least in orchestrating an outstanding win over Toulouse in France.

His biggest test comes first up in Cardiff next Friday night when he will have to deal with the prospect of Jamie Roberts bursting down his channel all night. If he emerges from the Millennium Stadium having led England to victory then a very fruitful championship awaits.

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