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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

England Seeks Spark in 5 Nations Free-for-All

LONDON -- Coaches Jack Rowell and Jean-Claude Skrela are demanding more from their senior players this weekend as the Five Nations championship focus shifts to Twickenham and Murrayfield.


The title race suddenly looks less predictable than it did a fortnight ago with Scotland's win over Ireland providing the perfect aperitif to its home game with France, a fixture which the Scots have lost only once in the last eight attempts.


Another Scotland victory would hoist them halfway towards a grand slam which no one thought feasible and force Skrela's men back to the drawing-board to relocate the promise they showed against New Zealand late last year.


But it is Jack Rowell's England side which has furthest to fall, with last season's grand slam champion under increasing pressure to produce the dynamic rugby Rowell has been preaching since he took the job.


The English will be favorites to beat Wales at Twickenham but the Welsh are a young, improving side under new coach Kevin Bowring and Rowell is apparently growing jittery in the countdown to the match.


During Wednesday's practice the England coach demanded that film and TV cameras be removed from the touchlines and reacted testily when told that Bowring had challenged England to match Wales's planned expansive game.


"Mr. Bowring is just starting off his international coaching with the Welsh team and should leave the England team to someone else," said Rowell curtly.


England displayed plenty of character in its 15-12 defeat in Paris but little in the way of attacking inspiration which has prompted Rowell to demand better options from his players in the heat of battle.


"What I am looking for is England producing a wider game and taking on the field what we rehearse on the training ground. If we cannot do that we are dissipating the talent in the team," said Rowell. "I believe people are underestimating Wales. We do not."


The most intriguing aspect of the Welsh performance will be how half-backs Robert Howley and Arwel Thomas cope on their Five Nations debuts.


Thomas, 21, and Howley, 25, are relative strangers to the England forwards, yet are part of a clear trend in European rugby so far this season.


Of the eight players involved in the pivotal roles behind the scrum this weekend, only one -- Scotland's Bryan Redpath -- was playing in the same position at the World Cup last year.


England pair Matt Dawson and Paul Grayson have only two caps apiece, France's Philippe Carbonneau has a mere five and neither Scotland's Gregor Townsend nor Frenchman Thierry Lacroix wore the number 10 jersey for their countries last season.


The pair who gel most effectively could help decide the outcome of this season's Five Nations.