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England bat away derogatory claims by legendary cricketer Ian Botham that they 'don't look a happy camp'

By Liam Heagney

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England have batted away claims by legendary cricketer Ian Botham that they “don’t look a happy camp” two games into their Guinness Six Nations title defence. Eddie Jones’ side bounced back with an expected round two win over Italy on February 13 after their opening day ambush by Scotland.

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Their rugby was at times sluggish, with their attack especially coming under scrutiny, and Botham, whose grandson James is a member of Wayne Pivac’s Wales squad, believes England are now ripe for a beating in Cardiff next Saturday.

“Wales can take them at this moment in time because England don’t look a happy camp to me, looking from the outside in,” said Botham to BBC Sport, a comment that didn’t go down well in the England camp when put to forwards coach Matt Proudfoot.  

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“Strange how someone can look inside the Lensbury bubble and know how happy we are. We are happy,” he shot back ahead of the standout match in this weekend’s round three.

“There is continuous stimulation and ways of people interacting to create a real togetherness and feeling of a team environment… what people must not underestimate is this is a competitive competition and you learn in defeats. It doesn’t make you unhappy. It doesn’t make it an unhappy camp. 

“This is a camp where you learn, you learn to bring your best every moment of the day and we all do that. Scotland were competitive against us. I thought we were a lot more dominant and a lot more together in the Italian game and I suspect an improvement this weekend. So I don’t think we are an unhappy camp, I think we’re a very determined camp.”

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A veteran of 102 Test matches and 116 one-day internationals for England, Botham nailed his Wales colours to the mast for Saturday. “I’m actually very happy to pull on that red shirt when they play England because obviously blood is thicker than water.

“I’m a proud Englishman, but I go UK for that weekend. It is a UK match. I’m supporting Wales, of course I am. What grandfather wouldn’t? That’s the question I would put to people.”

Wales go into the game having won their opening two matches against teams who were reduced to 14 players, Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony and Scotland’s Zander Fagerson getting red-carded for charging into breakdowns and illegally making contact with the head area.  

Bearing in mind this clampdown on contacts at the ruck, Proudfoot has explained that his forwards have been training hard this week to be more accurate with their entries for fear of becoming the third opposition in succession to suffer a red card against the Welsh.  

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“We have done a lot more breakdown work, a lot more reaction and body position work. How you enter the breakdown is crucial. Players safety is paramount. That is the message World Rugby is driving and rightly so,” agreed the England assistant. 

“We have had to take on board where attacking players go into the breakdown. We have taken on board how to enter, the reaction time to get there before the contest so that situation doesn’t materialise. that is definitely an area we have focused on this week.”

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England bat away derogatory claims by legendary cricketer Ian Botham that they 'don't look a happy camp'

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