Forward warns teammates they face intimidating atmosphere in Cardiff.
England forward Tom Wood says his side must not allow themselves to be intimidated by the atmosphere ahead of their Six Nations title showdown with Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Wood made his Test debut at the Millennium Stadium in 2011 and recalls being unnerved by the noise in the ground and the home crowd’s efforts to knock him out of his stride.
As a result, he says the pre-match build-up has been a focus of attention during England’s preparations for the game this week.
“There is a lot of sideshow before the game,” Wood said.
“There is a lot of noise. You have your side of the field to warm up on and there are often bands playing and an awful lot going on. It can be a little bit unsettling at times.
“I don’t know if it is a deliberate ploy to try and unsettle your warm-up routine or if it is because there is a confined space and they are looking to get as much going on as possible.
“I remember my debut and the noise and atmosphere in the warm-up made it very difficult to hear the guy two yards away from you. The simple warm-up drills we do were very difficult.
“I was worried about the game. I was thinking, ‘If I can’t hear this in these tight spaces and simple plays, how am I going to understand the complicated stuff and get messages back and forwards in the line-out?’
“Once the game kicks off, the crowd settle down. It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, but it can rock you before a game if you are not aware of it. We have addressed it in our meeting.”
The pre-match fanfare did not prevent Wood emerging on the winning side that day, and he says England must maintain their discipline if they are to engineer a repeat performance.
“We have spoken about being very clean in our defensive policy in our final third,” Wood said.
“We will be trying to put pressure on the opposition breakdown but not give the referee an easy out by keeping hands in the ruck or be half a yard offside.
“We have talked about making sure we don’t get carried away and give them easy points.”
Victory will give England their first Grand Slam success in a decade, but Wales can spoil the party – and snatch the Six Nations crown – if they prevail by eight points or more.
A winning margin of seven points will also suffice, provided Wales remain ahead of England on the number of tries scored across the tournament.
With the stakes so high, Wales flanker Justin Tipuric says there will be no shortage of motivation in the Welsh capital.
England have only won two of the last Six Nations encounters between the sides, but Tipuric says he and his team-mates cannot afford to take their eyes off the task in hand.
“We are just concentrating on our job and trying to win the game, that’s the biggest thing,” Tipuric said.
“It is about making sure the scoreboard is ticking over. You can’t go straight out there and try to get a massive lead in 10 minutes – it’s not possible.
“It is motivation whenever you play England, you want to win the game. Obviously, being at home as well, and trying to stop them from getting the Grand Slam is a major motivation.
“But it is not going to be easy. They are coming down having not lost a game all championship.”
Tipuric will start alongside fellow openside specialist Sam Warburton for the first time on Saturday, and the 24-year-old expects a stern examination at the hands of England counterparts Chris Robshaw, the captain, and Tom Croft.
“We are looking forward to it and working as a back row,” he said.
“If we can work as a three, rather than individuals, we should do well.”