Tag Archives: mettle

Sir Clive Woodward: England must use intimidation as inspiration

England must use intimidation as inspiration in the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium

PUBLISHED:

22:49 GMT, 15 March 2013

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UPDATED:

08:13 GMT, 16 March 2013

The Millennium Stadium is a unique
ground. Sitting bang in the middle of the city of Cardiff, the stadium
feels like the beating heart of Wales on match days.

There are few venues around the world
where supporters can finish their pints with five minutes to spare,
pour out of the pubs and take their seats in time for kick-off.

As a coach, when you have said your
final few words to the team in the relative peace of the dressing room
and walk out to hear the crowd singing under that roof, it can feel like
you are emerging into the Colosseum in Rome.

Not intimidated: Chris Ashton dives over to score at the Millennium Stadium in 2011 when England beat Wales 26-19

Not intimidated: Chris Ashton dives over to score at the Millennium Stadium in 2011 when England beat Wales 26-19

More from Sir Clive Woodward…

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: It's time to pile on the pressure and use Cardiff cauldron to test mettle of England's players
14/03/13

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: 2013 v 2003 – how my Grand Slam heroes compare to today’s side gunning for Six Nations glory
14/03/13

EXCLUSIVE: Sir Clive Woodward talks Grand Slams with George North… Training has been brutal and we're ready to do battle
13/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: This is the last England game for six months with everyone available and Ashton has a point to prove
11/03/13

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: It's time for England to wake up and smell the roses
10/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: England must fear the Italians if they are to prevent the biggest Six Nations shock ever
08/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: Just like no-nonsense Johnno, Robshaw is a natural born leader
07/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: Ranting Rafa He's far too shrewd for that
28/02/13

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Stuart Lancaster and his players will
sense that fever with a welcome like no other. Despite the fierce
rivalry, you get better looked after in Wales than anywhere else – they
want to thrash you, but they want it to be a fair fight.

There are no silly games – nobody rushes you off the pitch or limits the number of balls you have for the warm-up.

Hostility is manifest in the passionate support, not stupid mind games.

In 2001, when I took England to
Wales for our first ever match at the Millennium Stadium, I decided we
should stay in Cardiff Bay because I wanted to be near town and a part
of the build-up, not stuck on the outskirts and excluded from the buzz.

You want to be in the thick of it so you're not overwhelmed when you come in on match day, particularly for a 5pm kick-off.

From the Monday morning of the build-up to that Test almost every press conference question was about the stadium.

'Intimidation' was clearly the theme but I made it clear that we were playing the Welsh team, not the stadium. I held a meeting that night and told the players to turn the word 'intimidation' into 'inspiration'.

Players prepare in different ways. Hooker Steve Thompson, for example, braced himself for the Cardiff cacophony by practising his lineout throwing with white noise blasting through his headphones. It paid off as on the day his set-piece was as accurate as ever.

The players had never been inside the ground until we were given a tour of the stadium the day before the game.

Time to shine: Ben Youngs goes through the motions under the Millennium Stadium roof

Time to shine: Ben Youngs goes through the motions under the Millennium Stadium roof

Ready for battle: Manu Tuilagi passes the ball during the England captain's run at the Millennium Stadium

Ready for battle: Manu Tuilagi passes the ball during the England captain's run at the Millennium Stadium

One game from glory: Stuart Lancaster hopes England can win their final game of the Six Nations and secure the Grand Slam

One game from glory: Stuart Lancaster hopes England can win their final game of the Six Nations and secure the Grand Slam

RBS 6 NATIONS TITLE – PERMUTATIONS

England's victory over Italy means a win against Wales in Cardiff would seal a first Grand Slam in a decade.

However, Wales have everything to play for because a victory for them could be enough to retain the RBS 6 Nations title and leave England empty-handed.

England are currently two points ahead of Wales in the table and with a points-difference advantage of 14.

Under tournament rules, if the points and points difference end level then the championship would be decided on tries scored.

Wales hold the advantage 7-5 going into the final round. If tries scored is also level, the title is shared.

Here, we examine the permutations:

ENGLAND WIN GRAND SLAM

An England victory by any margin would secure a first Grand Slam triumph in a decade.

ENGLAND WIN TITLE

An England defeat by six points or fewer would still be enough to seal the title.

If England lose by seven points but outscore Wales by three tries or more then Stuart Lancaster's men would win the title.

WALES WIN TITLE

A Wales victory by seven points, providing they stay ahead of England on tournament tries, would see Rob Howley's men retain the title.

TITLE SHARED

If Wales win by seven points but England score two more tries then the title would be shared.

I wanted my team, particularly the back three, to get used to catching high balls under the lights and watching the flight of balls against the closed roof.

We walked into the away dressing room to find giant cardboard cutouts of the entire Welsh team – bigger than life size.

You've never heard such laughter in your life. It turned out they were there for tourists as part of the stadium tour, but the stadium officials had genuinely forgotten to move them.

The facilities in the stadium are second to none.

The away dressing room is big and spacious, unlike at Murrayfield where there is a giant pillar in the middle.

When we arrived on match day, I walked on to the pitch with Martin Johnson and we were booed by the supporters.

Johnno walked into the centre of the pitch and held his hands in the air – making it very clear this was exactly where he wanted to be.

The home and away dressing rooms are about 50 metres apart in a long corridor, so you are kept well away from your opponents.

While football players tend to hang out in the tunnel before coming out together that doesn't happen in rugby.

You come out separately – England to subdued cheers, Wales to pyrotechnics, blasting music and booming choirs.

The first time you see your opponents is when you line up for the anthems. It is all part of the magic.

One of the few things I miss from my coaching days is the dressing-room atmosphere on days like today.

It is the most electric place in the world with 20 minutes to go before
kickoff – a mix of adrenaline, fear and anticipation.

Ten players in
Lancaster's starting XV have never experienced that atmosphere and I
hope they are inspired, not intimidated.

Real champions thrive in enemy
territory. The dressing room against Wales was always noisier than at
home. Guys such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Will Greenwood and Matt Dawson
would come into their own.

All white on the night: Steve Thompson prepared by blasting white noise into his headphones

All white on the night: Steve Thompson prepared by blasting white noise into his headphones

Glorying in the rivalry: Martin Johnston was never one to be intimidated

Glorying in the rivalry: Martin Johnston was never one to be intimidated

Glorying in the rivalry: Martin Johnston was never one to be intimidated

I expect Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell, Tom
Youngs and Geoff Parling to do the same, supporting captain Chris
Robshaw to deliver the final key messages and get everybody focused on
kick-off.

We won comfortably on that first trip – but that doesn't mean it wasn't a dramatic day.

After
the game we returned to the hotel to change for the post-match dinner
but travelling back to the stadium was a nightmare.

A
lot of supporters had been drinking all day and we were stuck in a sea
of red shirts, crawling through the crowds at three or four mph with a
giant red rose on the side of the coach.

Man alive: Lawrence Dallaglio came into his own in the dressing room

Man alive: Lawrence Dallaglio came into his own in the dressing room

I had a superstition and would sit front left in the coach. A man in the crowds caught my eye because he had obviously had a big day out but was running straight towards us as if he was planning to tackle the coach.

At the last minute, he sidestepped to his right in Gerald Davies-style but was promptly knocked out cold by the large wing mirror.

I stopped the coach and got out, followed by a few players and our doctor, who rushed to help while we radioed for the police.

Suddenly I realised there was me and most of the England team in the middle of a crowd of drunk fans standing over a prostrate Welshman. It looked like we had run him over!

People started pointing fingers and it all got a little tense.

Then a crowd of equally well-oiled England fans pushed their way to the front and it really started to get a bit tasty. The police arrived just in time and sense prevailed.

That was more than 10 years ago, when England had a far stronger team than Wales.

Since then, Wales have become something of a nation of experts in this tournament – to win three Grand Slams in the last eight years is an amazing achievement.

I had a great team and we only did it once. But Lancaster's team are winners and I believe they will be inspired by playing in Cardiff.

They have only ever been beaten by single figures so this game will be close.

If England keep their cool in the Cardiff cauldron, they are good enough to win.

I truly hope they do. It is time a new generation of Englishmen stepped up to the plate and won the Grand Slam.

MY SIX KEY BATTLE AREAS…

1. KEEP COOL IN THE CAULDRON

Show respect: Referee Steve Walsh (left) has a chat with France captain Thierry Dusautoir

Show respect: Referee Steve Walsh (left) has a chat with France captain Thierry Dusautoir

This England team have an abundance of testosterone flowing through them and Wales will target the players who have a history of reacting.

Joe Marler, Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton and Mike Brown have had their moments and this can be a good thing – the 2003 team were at their best when there was a bit of sulphur in the air.

But you have to tread the line between never taking a step backwards and not getting distracted or involved in anything that puts you or your team-mates off their game.

England have recieved two yellow cards in this tournament, another today could cost them the Grand Slam. Let the score do the talking and silence the crowd.

The message from Stuart Lancaster must be about finding the crucial balance – you have to compete for the ball at the breakdown, but needless penalties will kill your team.

Referee Steve Walsh was extremely strict at the contact zone in Dublin last weekend.

Listen to him, repeat his calls, react and adapt to how he is marshalling that breakdown.

If he starts penalising the tackler for not rolling away, then make a show of releasing the player early and doing what he asks.

Be smart – get the wrong side of Walsh and you're in trouble.

2. GO FORWARD BEFORE YOU GO WIDE

England have not scored a try against Wales for 196 minutes but it will be almost impossible for them to win without doing so in a game as tight as this, so they must sort out their attacking strategies.

The ambition was there against Italy, the failure was in execution.

There is no point passing the ball out wide if the opposition have more defenders in the line than you have attackers, as was often the case against Italy.

Please release me: Ben Youngs will be key to getting the ball out wide

Please release me: Ben Youngs will be key to getting the ball out wide

Use the early phases to charge directly forward and suck more defenders into the ruck and the narrow channels.

Then, when there is space out wide, release the ball.

Ben Youngs has to lead this, ordering the forwards to use their firepower and go 'route one' very early in the game.

3. OPTIONS ARE KEY TO ATTACK

Talisman Owen Farrell returns and England will take confidence in having their best half-back pairing in the spine of the side, but full back Alex Goode is key to offering a second option in attack.

The clash of the centres will be monstrous in midfield but I hope Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi have the confidence not just to run into contact but to pass the ball before contact.

Use Tuilagi as a decoy and out-think the Welsh. This is where Goode is key.

Goode idea: Alex Goode can be used to out-think Wales

Goode idea: Alex Goode can be used to out-think Wales

He has gone quiet in games, so he needs to come into the attack as a second receiver to create plays and get the side playing more expansively.

Barritt and Tuilagi can become a great pairing but they need Goode to give Farrell more options in the inside centre role.

4. IT'S A MISTAKE TO FOCUS ONLY ON THE DANGERMEN

Alex Cuthbert and George North are giant dangers on the wing – I couldn't believe just how big George was when I met him!

He is such an intelligent player, too, so Chris Ashton has his work cut out. Both wingers come looking for crash balls either inside or outside the fly-half.

But Wales' back line have the footballing ability to miss the winger out and if England focus on one player they can get caught out.

England just need to keep their defensive shape. If the big guys come at you hard it is about technique – hit them hard and low.

North star: Wales winger George North could cause all sorts of problems for England

North star: Wales winger George North could cause all sorts of problems for England

If your technique is sloppy – and England have been guilty of going in too high recently – then you will look stupid.

I expect a big step up in England's tackling today, Ashton included.

Both defensive coaches, Andy Farrell and Shaun Edwards, have brought huge rugby league influences into these sides.

League is fundamentally a simpler game with a bigger emphasis on defence, especially the blitz defence where players rush up and 'get in the face' of attackers.

Wales have gone 277 minutes without conceding a try (they could beat my team's tournament record of 319 minutes).

The challenge is keeping your shape when your lungs are burning and your brain is starved of oxygen.

This game will be won in the last 10 minutes and that is when the fitness of these two teams will be tested.

Power play: Stopping Sam Warburton in his tracks will be one of England's big challenges

Power play: Stopping Sam Warburton
in his tracks will be one of England's big
challenges

5. TARGET WARBURTON

It is less than 100 days to the first Lions Test and the backrow battle will be fascinating – but the turnover contest is not a question of Chris Robshaw v Sam Warburton.

Whichever England player arrives at the breakdown first has to target Warburton. Against a player of his strength, you have to decide – attack the ball or attack him.

You need to try to get him off the ball before he sets up in that 'crouched jackal' position over it.

Once he is set up, you won't be able to move him, so hit him as early as you can within the laws of the game.

6. GET THE BALL IN AND OUT OF THE SCRUM

The bigger the game, the bigger the basics. Basics are the scrum, the lineout and the restart.

For all the attacking flair in these teams out wide, if you do not nail those three foundations then you cannot create real momentum.

In the front row, Joe Marler and Dan Cole must deal with Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins, who have been the cornerstone of Wales' three Grand Slams, so England have to be clever.

The stadium turf has a tendency to cut up so you want to get the ball in, out and away.

Win the engagement and use the scrum as a platform to restart your attack quickly.

If you leave the ball in and the scrum collapses you give the referee an opportunity to penalise you.

At restarts, England must be aware of the aerial threat of North and Cuthbert, who can out-jump forwards. Do not let them get to the ball first.

Fed Cup team will fight Argentina for promotion in World Group II play-offs

Fed Cup to fight Argentina for promotion in World Group II play-offs

By
Liv Lee

PUBLISHED:

10:51 GMT, 13 February 2013

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UPDATED:

12:14 GMT, 13 February 2013

The Fed Cup team's next opponent has been announced and the British squad will take on Argentina on April 20-21.

The team reached the World Group II play-offs after beating Bosnia, Portugal, Hungary and Bulgaria in the Europe/Africa Zone Group I.

It's the second consecutive year that the team has reached this stage in the competition, having lost to Sweden in the play-offs last year. This time they are determined not to let a promotion to the second tier of the competition slip through their fingers.

The Fed Cup team celebrated on court following their win over Bulgaria

Victorious: The Fed Cup team celebrated on court after making it to the World Group II play-offs

Unfortunately for the British team they won't have the home advantage, as Argentina were drawn as the hosts.

However, they will travel there with two players who have recently been pushing for a top 40 spot, while Argentina's top player, Paula Ormaechea, is currently ranked 195th, and may not even be available for the tie after picking up an injury against Sweden.

Britain's No 1 and No 2, Heather Watson and Laura Robson, both proved their mettle in last week's group tie's, with only one loss between them.

Team captain Judy Murray seemed enthusiastic about the draw, tweeting: 'Buenos dias Buenos Aires. Vamos @HeatherWatson92 @laurarobson5 @JoKonta91 @annekeothavong @ElenaBaltacha xxxxx #GBFedCup'

Anne Keothavong also seemed happy with the draw, tweeting: 'Argentina. Away. April. Bring it on! #GBFedCup.'

Judd Trump beats Neil Robertson to claim International Championship crown

Trump beats Robertson to claim International Championship title

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UPDATED:

22:50 GMT, 4 November 2012

Judd Trump became the first winner of the International Championship, beating Neil Robertson 10-8 in the final in Chengdu.

The 22-year-old Bristolian became
world No 1 with his semi-final hammering of Peter Ebdon and on Sunday added
the 125,000 first prize.

Champion: England's Judd Trump

Champion: England's Judd Trump

A tight match seemed to have swung Robertson's way when he led 8-6 but his rival left-hander found another gear, breaks of 96 and 119 helping him turn the contest around.

The first four frames were split before Robertson returned from the first interval to open up a 4-2 lead, with breaks of 51 and 41 in frame four.

Trump took two contrasting frames to level – the first at one visit after a stunning opening red, the second a messy affair – but Robertson took the last of the afternoon session with a 50 break to lead 5-4.

The evening began with a re-rack and then a cagey start to frame 10, but Trump took it with a run of 57 to level the match once more.

He nudged ahead but Robertson responded with breaks of 68 and 88, and a 73 after the interval took the Australian 8-6 ahead.

Trump looked to be in trouble when he hammered the black off the table having gone 22 ahead in the vital 15th frame, but responded to close to within one.

And the world number one proved his mettle, going close to a century in the next and then making 119 to go ahead at the perfect time with just one frame needed for the title.

He opened up in the next with a swerve to pot a long red and then split the pack well, but could only make 39. Robertson failed to respond, though, and another superb opening red and pink set Trump on the way to victory.

It was Trump's third ranking title, having won the China Open and the UK Championship last year, while for Robertson it was only a second defeat in 12 ranking finals.

Manchester City 4 West Brom 0 – Match Zone

Etihad Stadium match zone – Aguero takes sting out of Tevez buzz

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UPDATED:

22:13 GMT, 11 April 2012

Aguero takes sting out of Tevez buzz

Carlos Tevez's return to the City starting line-up sent a buzz round the ground, but the attention was soon back on their other stocky little Argentinian frontrunner.

Spotting a gap in West Brom’s defence, Sergio Aguero exploited it with a darting run and low shot that flew past Ben Foster’s right hand. Tevez was making his first start since September 21 and received a mixed reception when his name was read out before the start.

Start again: Carlos Tevez returned to the line-up for the first time since September

Start again: Carlos Tevez returned to the line-up for the first time since September

Long 90 minutes for Shane

Shane Long had the thankless task of taking on City’s defence unaided, as West Brom concentrated on containment. The futility of it dawned on him when he controlled a long ball, looked up and saw nothing but blue shirts.

The striker tumbled over a challenge in the hope of some respite from Kevin Friend, but the referee wasn’t buying it.

Precious Silva mettle

David
Silva was back in action, after knee and ankle problems, and almost
marked his return in style, after playing a one-two on the left of the
area and unleashing a fierce drive that brought the best out of keeper
Ben Foster. There was venom in the shot, and Foster reacted well.

Silva service: David Silva notched

Silva service: David Silva notched

Waving the white flag

City followers appear to have accepted their fate in the title race. The ground was virtually deserted when Joe Hart went through his pre-match warm-up, while, when the teams came out 45 minutes later, there were still empty seats dotted round a ground that has been used to ‘house full’ signs this season.

IN FOCUS

Mario Balotelli

Banned and possibly about to be binned, but fair play to City’s errant striker. Wearing a sheepskin coat to stay warm, he was all smiles as he took his place in an executive box to cheer on his team-mates.

Kevin Friend

Due to be fourth official, he was mysteriously promoted to the middle in place of Lee Mason, the ref who sent off QPR’s Shaun Derry at Manchester United. The FA wouldn’t tell City the reason.

Mike Summerbee

On fixture congestion, the former City great wrote in the match programme: ‘I don’t want to hear any club complaining about tiredness. Today’s stars are not playing in six inches of mud and trying to hoof a leather ball.’

Sir Alex Ferguson stands up for Steve Kean

You're not so Kean to criticise now! Fergie salutes Blackburn revival

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UPDATED:

15:01 GMT, 29 March 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Blackburn's fans must be regretting their vitriolic attacks on manager Steve Kean.

The Rovers manager has come in for some fearful stick at times this season.

David Moyes walked out of a pre-Christmas encounter with Bolton so disgusted was he at the treatment being meted out to his fellow Scot.

At that point, Kean's departure seemed inevitable.

Amazingly though, he not only stayed but prospered.

Protest: Blackburn fans were calling for Steve Kean's head earlier in the seasonProtest: Blackburn fans were calling for Steve Kean's head earlier in the season

Protest: Blackburn fans were calling for Steve Kean's head earlier in the season

Not even the loss of skipper Christopher Samba has halted recent progress and of the five teams who have been sucked into the relegation scrap, Blackburn look most likely to survive.

'I am sure a lot of them are saying to themselves “I wish I hadn't done that”,' said Ferguson of the Blackburn fans.

'Things can change. You have to dig in and not let it get to you.

'Now no-one is talking about fans having protest marches.

'He has held his dignity very well and deserves 100 per cent praise from everyone, including his own supporters.

'He has shown his mettle in times when it was difficult for him.'

Improvement came immediately after that Bolton debacle, when Rovers followed up a draw at Liverpool by beating United at Old Trafford.

Transformation: Kean celebrates the Old Trafford win with his players

Transformation: Kean celebrates the Old Trafford win with his players

It was one of the most remarkable results in a season littered with staggering scorelines and is part of an impressive overall Blackburn record against United.

Indeed, United make the short journey up the M61 on Monday looking to improve a woeful return of just two wins on their last 11 visits, even if the latest failure was a triumphant one as Wayne Rooney's penalty in May earned the point that clinched a record 19th title.

Nevertheless, it is a strange statistic and one that contrasts sharply with their return against other derby foes, Wigan and Bolton.

'I couldn't answer why,' said Ferguson.

'When Blackburn score first they make it difficult for you, so maybe the answer is to make sure we keep our noses in front.'

In theory, United's chances of victory are assisted by having a clear week to prepare.

Time to prepare: United will have had a week without a fixture

Time to prepare: United will have had a week without a fixture

Other than the Easter programme it will be that way for the remainder of the campaign now all interest in cup competitions has come to an end.

But Ferguson does not feel comfortable with that.

Having watched Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich claim Champions League wins in midweek and a fascinating duel between Barcelona and AC Milan, he knows what he would prefer.

'We have been used to playing midweek games for so long that you do miss it,' said the United boss.

'The players miss it too. Yes, we do get freshness but you can't have it all ways. We would rather be in the Champions League.'

Ferguson has confirmed he will be selecting from the same squad that contested the nervy win over Fulham as Rio Ferdinand has recovered from the back problem that triggered his early exit and Nani is still to return to training after missing four games with an ankle injury.

The aftermath of that 1-0 win has centred around the failure of referee Michael Oliver to award a penalty for Michael Carrick's clumsy last-minute challenge on Danny Murphy.

Penalty shout: Murphy is tripped by Carrick

Penalty shout: Murphy is tripped by Carrick

Patrick Vieira has tried to limit the fall-out from his controversial accusation on Wednesday that United benefited from major decisions.

Ferguson seemed to take that into account with his measured response, which contrasted sharply to the blistering volley of last week after Vieira's initial claim that Paul Scholes' abandoned retirement smacked of desperation.

'From the referee's position, I can see why he didn't give a penalty when Danny Murphy was brought down,' said the Scot.

'The ball moved to the angle as Michael Carrick challenged him. From that position, it wasn't clear.

'It was a good claim but you could go through millions of things like that. City could have had a penalty against them at Stoke for a foul by Gareth Barry.

'Every club gets breaks here and there, you get good ones and bad ones.

'It evens itself out over the season, that will never change.'

Sebastian Vettel wants third world championship

Vettel ready to test his mettle in bid for triple championship glory

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UPDATED:

13:24 GMT, 14 March 2012

Double world champion Sebastian Vettel has set his sights on further cementing his place in the Formula One history books.

Far from feeling satisfied with the back-to-back titles he has dominantly won these last two years, Vettel has every intention of a three-peat, with his bid for glory starting this weekend as the 2012 season opens in Australia.

It is a feat achieved only twice previously by two of the legends of the sport, initially Juan Manuel Fangio from 1954-1957 and then Michael Schumacher from 2000-2004.

Batting for glory: Sebastian Vettel wants his third title running

Batting for glory: Sebastian Vettel wants his third title running

Ahead of unwinding with a game of cricket on St Kilda beach with Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, and with the setting sun serving as a backdrop, a determined Vettel said: 'My target is always to win the world championship.

'After winning my first title it was a great relief in many ways because I proved to myself I could do it.

'It was also important because it is something no one can take from me.

'But that doesn't mean you don't care what happens next. In fact, it is the opposite.

'You know it all starts again, everyone starts from zero again, and so naturally you want to do it again.

Relaxing: Vettel prepares for the Australian Grand Prix

Relaxing: Vettel prepares for the Australian Grand Prix

'I have never had to ask myself the
question “Do I want this again” or “Why am I here”. So far it has been
completely natural and nothing has changed.

'I am still hungry, and I still get upset when someone beats me – which is a good thing for sure.

'Everyone gets beaten one day, although it's not about that particular day but how you come back because there is nothing wrong with losing.'

Another year of domination, as last season when he won 11 races from a record-breaking 15 poles, and Vettel will need to build a separate trophy room at his home rather than the shelf he is currently erecting, albeit creaking under the weight of silverware.

'I don't yet have a proper place (for the trophies),' said the 24-year-old.

'I'm working on it, although the shelf I'm installing might be a bit small, but it's a very nice problem to have. I don't want to complain.

Hungry: Vettel says he will keep striving for victory

Hungry: Vettel says he will keep striving for victory

'When I thought about a particular place and the shelf, I didn't have that many trophies at the time.

'At the moment they're all just on one side in the living room.'

As for his title trophy, that takes pride of place on his kitchen table, to which he joked: 'But not with the cornflakes.

'I'm German. Everything has to be precise and you can't mix the cornflakes with the world championship trophy.'

The expectation is the latest creation from design guru Adrian Newey, the RB8, will certainly be amongst the frontrunners, even if a more robust challenge is also anticipated from their rivals.

That is despite the gremlins that plagued Vettel's car in his final day of testing in Barcelona recently, which was not the ideal way to prepare for the forthcoming campaign.

Preparation: Vettel says there were a few issues with the recent testing session

Preparation: Vettel says there were a few issues with the recent testing session

Brushing aside the issues, Vettel added: 'We would have loved to have done more, but the reliability is not disastrous. It might look worse than it is.

'The issues we had, we found a solution and pretty quickly, but obviously you cannot always react on the same day.

'Here we are all set and we will see how we get on, but like every year, cars are built on the limit.

'With the regulations very similar you try to push the boundaries a little more, that is F1. Cars do break from time to time.'

Vettel, meanwhile, has called his new car 'Abby', which is a far cry from previously evocative names such as 'Kate's Dirty Sister', 'Luscious Liz', 'Randy Mandy' and 'Kinky Kylie'.

West Brom 4 Sunderland 0: Match Zone

Hodgson's handling of Odemwingie proves he has mettle for England role

What would happen if neither Harry Redknapp nor Stuart Pearce took the England job

Well, the Football Association would be in a fix, certainly.

But the probability is that it wouldn't be for long. There is an alternative.

In a professional career that has spanned 35 years, Roy Hodgson has now repaired the damage done to his reputation while at Liverpool while all but confirming another year's stay in the Premier League for West Bromwich Albion.

Rich pickings: Peter Odemwingie has been red hot of late

Rich pickings: Peter Odemwingie has been red hot of late

Four unanswered goals at the Hawthorns left Hodgson in self-congratulatory mood, confirming to the assembled media afterwards that he believes the Baggies need no longer look over their shoulders.

With an unsigned contract to hand – the current one runs out in three months – if the decision-makers at Wembley want an experienced alternative at no cost, then Hodgson, surely, must be worth an interview.

His treatment of Peter Odemwingie is a case in point. The Nigerian forward was on the end of a tongue-lashing three months ago – Hodgson claiming the club had 'got nothing' from him since he was awarded a bumper pay deal last summer.

During the January transfer window, the Baggies' striker sought a meeting. Since then, his form has steadily improved to the point where he has now claimed five goals in his last two games.

Options: Could Roy Hodgson take the England role

Options: Could Roy Hodgson take the England role

'Maybe it was his psychology,” said Odemwingie, 'I learned something from the situation.

'Did it spur me on Maybe he had something in mind when we had this, shall we say, “situation”.

'I went to see him. He said I had a lot to offer and that I shouldn't take my anger and frustration out on him.

'We needed to clear the air. But I do want to say that it was a fitness thing. I am the total opposite of a player who doesn't want to play through pain.

'The doctor here knows that. I love the Premier League too much to even miss a game against the lowest team. I never want to miss a match.

'I didn't play one week and my mum was on the phone saying: “What's the matter with you”

'She may be in Moscow but she watches all of West Brom's games on the national football channel.

'And if I'm not playing, she wants to know why!'

match zone

England must hit back hard against Pakistan

Quest to join the greatest! England must hit back hard to keep their mission alive

England showed their character and mettle by hitting back strongly and winning the Ashes twice after crushing defeats by Australia at Headingley and Perth during their rise to the top of the Test game.

This time could be different. This time will be a true test of their desire to be considered one of the greatest teams to have played the game. It will be the ultimate test of their powers of recovery because defeating Pakistan here in alien conditions in the second Test will be devilishly difficult.

Thinking time: Strauss will be keen for his side to bounce back from their first-Test defeat

Thinking time: Strauss will be keen for his side to bounce back from their first-Test defeat

For a start, no team has won a Test at the Sheik Zayed Stadium – OK, there have only ever been two of them here but they were both high-scoring draws – and the wicket being prepared for Wednesday's match looked like the flattest of surfaces.

Also, conditions were very much in England's favour when they moved on to The Oval in 2009 and Melbourne at the end of 2010 after defeats that could have knocked the stuffing out of lesser teams.

In good spirits: Pietersen was criticised for his display in the opening Test

In good spirits: Pietersen was criticised for his display in the opening Test

Instead, England earned thrilling wins that clinched the urn on both occasions. The shock of their 10-wicket loss in Dubai leaves England still having everything to prove if they are to convince they can compete in subcontinental conditions.

If they fail here then they cannot win this three-match series and a year that will also include visits to Sri Lanka and India will seem that much more daunting.

Probable teams

Andrew Strauss is always phlegmatic and talked sensibly yesterday about the task ahead, but he must know deep down that this is one of the biggest challenges of the highly successful alliance between him and Andy Flower.

The Sheik Zayed Stadium is an unlikely stage for such a showdown, not least because it is another inaccessible venue in the middle of the desert. So desperate are the authorities here to attract a crowd – any sort of crowd – that the doors will be flung open and spectators invited in for free. That will never happen at Lord's.

Strauss knows that taking 20 wickets here will test the skill and ingenuity of his four-man attack like never before but hewas keen yesterday not to pre-judge the wicket on the back of history.

'It might be hard to get a victory here but there are a lot of things that can happen over five days,' said Strauss.

'The wicket looks flat but it's
important we don't go in with any preconceptions. We learned a lesson on
that in Dubai. /01/24/article-0-116F301A000005DC-862_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”In training: England are put through their paces at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium” class=”blkBorder” />

In training: England are put through their paces at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium

England may never have played here before but they remember Abu Dhabi well as the venue for their holding camp before they returned to India in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008.

England trained at this spaceship-like venue and stayed at the same central hotel they are using now with their families.

'Things were a bit up in the air over whether we would return to India and we got bounced mercilessly by Freddie Flintoff in the nets,' said Strauss.

'So they aren't brilliant memories, but we went back to Chennai and I scored two centuries in the Test, so personally that was fantastic.'

England were already considering leaving Chris Tremlett out of this Test after his rusty performance in Dubai but the decision was made for them yesterday when the Surrey giant spent all of training sitting on a cool-box rather than bowling because of a sore back.

Game over: Tremlett faces another spell on the sidelines

Game over: Tremlett faces another spell on the sidelines

It was a back injury that kept Tremlett out for the second half of last summer and this latest setback is a worrying one for a bowler who looked to have put his many injury problems behind him when he starred in last winter's Ashes.

Tremlett has all the physical attributes to be a monster of a fast bowler but his body still looks fragile and he cut a forlorn figure yesterday as he contemplated another spell out of the side.

England were set to choose in his place between the next man in line for a fast bowling spot, Steven Finn, or the wicket-to-wicket qualities of Graham Onions, who would be making his international comeback after a career-threatening back injury of his own.

Onions looked the more likely to get the nod last night, and the wait for a Test return for spinner Monty Panesar, whose last appearance was in 2009, seemed set to continue.

Only if England need to gamble everything on winning the final Test will Panesar seemingly come into the equation.

Martin Jol questions Mark Hughes"s staying power

I doubt he'll be there in two years! Jol doubts Hughes's mettle as QPR boss

Fulham manager Martin Jol has questioned Mark Hughes’s staying power — and claimed if he had real ambition he would have remained at Craven Cottage.

Hughes quit Fulham last summer complaining they could not match his aspirations, before walking into QPR this week on a two-and-a-half-year deal talking of building a Loftus Road legacy.

Don't put your shirt on it: Martin Jol has ridiculed suggestions that Mark Hughes is in it for the long haul

Don't put your shirt on it: Martin Jol has ridiculed suggestions that Mark Hughes is in it for the long haul at QPR

War of words: Jol

War of words: Jol

But Jol — who succeeded Hughes — said: ‘It is not always about money if you are talking about ambition.

‘We are ambitious, but last time he was here he said maybe Fulham are not. Fulham played in a European final and that is not easy to achieve. Of course we have been playing in the Premier League now for years, so it is a different club.

‘When I came here I knew Fulham were ambitious, so I never said to the chairman, “I want this or that”.

‘Our ambition is to be a very good club in the Premier League and hopefully in the next couple of years we can win something.’

Jol cast doubt on Hughes’s talk of wanting to stay at QPR for the long haul, adding: ‘He is very brave to say that. If you look at all the clubs he has managed, it has been for two years — at the most.’

Andrew Strauss helps England to win over ICC XI in UAE

England keep their heads to complete unconvincing three-wicket win against ICC XI

England kept their cool to complete an awkward run chase and prevail by three wickets against an ICC Combined XI in the first warm-up match of their tour of the United Arab Emirates.

Andrew Strauss' men got a little more than they bargained for, after the captain opened up the contest by declaring almost 100 runs in arrears.

But the skipper himself made good on his intent with a fluent 78 at the top of the order as England made a fine start to their pursuit of 261 to win in a minimum 69 overs after the Combined XI had declared on 164 for nine.

From 133 for one, it gradually became too close for England's comfort as wickets fell in clusters thereafter. But Steve Davies and Stuart Broad ensured all ended well, as the tourists not only got off to a winning start but had to work for their success too.

Top scorer: Andrew Strauss reached 78 off 96 balls with his innings forming the backbone of England's run chase

Top scorer: Andrew Strauss reached 78 off 96 balls with his innings forming the backbone of England's run chase

With Pakistan due to arrive tonight for a three-Test series starting on January 17, and a three-day match still to come for England against a PCB XI at this same GCA ground before then, Strauss' team can claim to be well advanced in their preparation despite the loss of first-choice seamer Tim Bresnan through injury and some other minor niggles.

On a benign pitch which surprisingly
gave up a stream, occasionally a clatter, of wickets but rarely quick
runs, today's target appeared from the outset to represent a useful test
of England's mettle.

Strauss and Alastair Cook took
advantage of the absence of injured strike bowler Hamid Hassan in an
opening stand of 63 in less than 12 overs until the latter was much too
early on a pull in Craig Williams' first over and fell to a fine catch
by Majid Haq.

Swashbuckling: Stuart Broad hit two fours and a six as his 31 aided England's cause

Swashbuckling: Stuart Broad hit two fours and a six as his 31 aided England's cause

Jonathan Trott was in grave danger of
departing caught down the leg-side for the second time in the match,
this time for a duck, until the umpires concluded the edge off Boyd
Rankin had not quite carried.

Strauss dominated the second-wicket
stand, bringing up his 67-ball 50 with his 11th four. But he too was to
pay for an aerial pull, off Haq.

Kevin Pietersen then managed only a
single before falling to a tumbling catch by Rankin at mid-on off his
Irish compatriot George Dockrell, the second wicket in the space of six
balls.

Trott and Ian Bell steadied the chase again either side of tea, but neither could complete the assignment.

Steady: Jonathan Trott

Steady: Ian Bell

Time at the crease: Jonathan Trott (left) and Ian Bell made 35 and 39, respectively

Trott's attempt to dominate Mohammad
Nabi (three for 66) failed when he reined in to defence from up the
wicket and fell to a sharp bat-pad catch at short leg.

Eoin Morgan went cheaply to Rankin, the latest of several in this match to fall to a catch behind down the leg-side.

Then after Bell's bizarre dismissal,
paddle-sweeping Nabi via a deflection into the hands of slip running
round to the leg-side, at 199 for six the outcome was in the balance.

But Broad and Davies, who survived one close call off Nabi with a half-chance to wide mid-off on 20, did not panic.

Broad had a moment of fortune too,
reprieved with 18 still needed by a poor throw and Nabi's failure to
gather when he seemed sure to be run out.

Not out: Kevin Pietersen leads an unsuccessfully LBW appeal for the nuggety Mohammed Shahzad, who would reach 74

Not out: Kevin Pietersen leads an unsuccessfully LBW appeal for the nuggety Mohammed Shahzad, who would reach 74

The seventh-wicket pair were
therefore able to settle the match in a stand of 61 – with almost nine
overs to spare, even though Broad holed out with scores level.

Earlier, Mohammad Shahzad's second 50 of the match had frustrated England this morning.

Broad (three for 22) struck in the
fifth over of the day, to take his match haul to seven wickets, when
Nabi mis-pulled to mid-off.

But Shahzad again looked in control.
He brought up his 76-ball half-century with an edge wide of the slips
for his ninth four, in a James Anderson over which cost 16 runs.

He had been joined by Christi
Viljoen, whose match tally went past 100 following his first-innings 98
before he was run out when he was sent back for a single and unable to
beat a throw from Monty Panesar – on as a substitute fielder for Graeme
Swann.

Lending a hand: Twelfth man Monty Panesar of England celebrates with Steve Davies after running out Christi Viljoen

Lending a hand: Twelfth man Monty Panesar of England celebrates with Steve Davies after running out Christi Viljoen

Shahzad then aimed one big shot too
many at Pietersen's stand-in off-spin, holing out at long-off – and
after Rankin missed a swipe at Steven Finn, Will Porterfield called his
batsmen in.

Swann did not bowl and stayed off the field with tightness in a leg muscle, until coming out to bat with one run required.