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SIX NATIONS 2013: How good is England"s team?

We asked England's 2003 Grand Slam and World Cup winners for their views on Stuart Lancaster's side… what was the verdict

PUBLISHED:

22:42 GMT, 2 March 2013

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UPDATED:

16:23 GMT, 3 March 2013

England are two wins away from completing the Grand Slam, but just how good is Stuart Lancaster's side Sportsmail asked the class of 2003, who not only triumphed in the Six Nations, but were also crowned world champions.

The questions we put to them were:

1 How good are this England team
2 Can they replicate your triumphs
3 Which players have impressed you

Matt Dawson

Matt Dawson

Scrum-half, 77 England caps, 16 tries. Retired in 2006. Now media pundit

1 They are easily the best since 2003, not necessarily a great set of individuals but, as a unit, they are very impressive. They’re in a similar position to us in 2001 but with less experience.

2 If they continue as they are, they will be in prime position for the World Cup in 2015. Winning the Grand Slam in a fortnight will help as they need to win big games under pressure.

3 I like the second row. They have become the epitome of the engine room. I’m also impressed with how Danny Care is dealing with being second-choice scrum-half.

Mature: Danny Care has taken well to being second choice

Mature: Danny Care has taken well to being second choice

Phil Vickery

Phil Vickery

Prop, 73 caps, 2 tries. Retired in 2010. Runs clothing brand Raging Bull

1 They’re good now but have potential to be great. I can see quite a few similarities to us, when it comes to individuals and their positions. The only player they’ll never find is a Billy Whizz [Jason Robinson].

2 Can they Yes. Will they With luck they should win the Grand Slam, but Wales will not be easy, and they need to hit a few more speedbumps before the World Cup to toughen them up.

3 Chris Robshaw is top of my list. He’s been outstanding as a player and captain. I’d also like to single out coach Stuart Lancaster. He hasn’t put a foot wrong. Manu Tuilagi’s my other man. Owen Farrell has also impressed.

Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen

Wing, 57 caps, 31 tries. Retired in 2011. Chairman of anti-bullying charity

1 They’re developing nicely but aren’t yet the best in the world. With Wales away for a Grand Slam we will find out whether this team can dig deep. The 2003 side suffered setbacks that made them stronger.

2 I don’t see why not. But I’d like to see a few more peaks and troughs so that we peak in 2015 for the World Cup.

3 I like the back row, including James Haskell. Tom Wood reminds me of Richard Hill. Ben Youngs may have more control but Danny Care is like Matt Dawson in how he can put the opposition on the back foot.

No joke: James Haskell has impressed in England's back row

No joke: James Haskell has impressed in England's back row

Richard Hill

Richard Hill

Flanker, 71 caps, 12 tries. Retired in 2008. Now coach at Saracens

1 They are performing well, are led well and seem to know what they want. In 10 years, the game has moved on, but this group seem quicker than us to find the answers.

2 There’s every indication that they can. They’ve already played all the best teams in the world and fared OK to very well against them. Winning the Slam would give them the confidence we got from our 2003 Slam.

3 Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood. They are ferocious in the breakdown and are used as an attacking weapon in defence. Manu Tuilagi is critical to England, too.

Mike Tindall

Mike Tindall

Centre, 75 caps, 14 tries. Now player-coach at Gloucester

1 They’ve been playing at a high intensity and their biggest strength is the pressure they apply. But there is still work to be done.

2 They can better us by winning a Grand Slam two years before the World Cup. I’d be disappointed if they don’t. Win, and they can go on to be world champions.

3 Manu Tuilagi is England’s key player and Robshaw’s consistency is outstanding, Joe Launchbury’s a real find and look out for Billy Vunipola.

Main man: Manu Tuilagi has been at the forefront of England's Grand Slam bid

Main man: Manu Tuilagi has been at the forefront of England's Grand Slam bid

Josh Lewsey

Josh Lewsey

Full-back, 55 caps, 22 tries. Retired in 2011. Works in the City as commodities trader

1 This is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Not many would get into our team, but what’s more important is the environment Stuart Lancaster has created.

2 Yes, in terms of medals, although I don’t think the calibre of rugby in the Northern Hemisphere is as high as it could be. This England team are doing well but we set the global standards in 2001-02.

3 It’s hard to single out individuals because England’s best weapon has been their teamwork. I do like Dan Cole’s demeanour and the way he goes about his business.

Ben Kay

Ben Kay

Lock, 62 caps, 2 tries. Retired in 2010. Now a ESPN commentator and media analyst

1 So far, very good, but it’s still early days. They need a lot more time. And how many would get into our team Not as many as some might think. We were much older and had experienced leaders all over the pitch.

2 They can, but don’t hang everything on 2015. Don’t forget the majority of the 2003 team went through the 1999 World Cup and the current team are certainly young enough to go on and win in 2019 instead — or maybe even as well.

3 Obviously Manu Tuilagi and Owen Farrell, but also Dan Cole and Joe Launchbury.

Hands on approach: Joe Launchbury is another who has grown during the Six Nations campaign

Hands on approach: Joe Launchbury is another who has grown during the Six Nations campaign

Trevor Woodman

Trevor Woodman

Prop, 22 caps, 0 tries. Retired in 2004. Forwards coach at Wasps

1 Judging by the last few results, England are becoming very difficult to beat. But are they better than we were Yes and no. They are a bit younger than us and we had more world-class players. What is similar is that a lot of our team had the disappointment of the 1999 World Cup, just as some of this team were at the 2011 Cup.

2 Without a doubt, if not better than what we achieved, but there are caveats. We must ensure we keep up, if not get ahead, of any improvements by others. We must ensure there is stiff competition for places and we must make Twickenham a fortress.

3 Mako Vunipola because he is such a destructive ball-carrier; Joe Launchbury, because he doesn’t make mistakes. And Manu, of course. He has the X Factor.

Steve Thompson

Steve Thompson

Hooker, 73 caps, 4 tries. Retired in 2011. Now living with his new family in Dubai

1 Good and will get better. I’m not sure the best starting XV is playing yet. The scrum creaked a bit against France.

2 Certainly with the Grand Slam. We’ll find out more about whether they can stand the pressure. I want to see them bully sides like we did, mentally and physically.

3 Tom Youngs is our best hooker now, overtaking Dylan Hartley. He’s awesome in the scrum and the loose and if he fine-tunes some of his set-piece he will be world class.

Head and shoulders above the rest: Tom Youngs (centre) has emerged as England's best hooker

Head and shoulders above the rest: Tom Youngs (centre) has emerged as England's best hooker

Will Greenwood

Will Greenwood

Centre, 55 caps, 31 tries. Retired in 2006. Now a media analyst

1 I’m enjoying watching them. They have great mental strength and are improving in stature every game. It’s a great sign they can beat sides as good as France when not playing well, and be annoyed about it.

2 The Grand Slam definitely and with a World Cup at home the options open up.

3 Geoff Parling. He jumps, he pushes, he tackles, he does exactly what it says on the tin. And Owen Farrell. To be a stand-off in a World Cup-winning side you need to be a tough nut and a sponge. He absorbs every lesson Test rugby throws at him.

Andy Robinson set to be named as Bristol"s Director of Rugby after quitting Scotland

Former Scotland boss Robinson tasked with securing promotion for Bristol

By
Chris Foy

PUBLISHED:

14:20 GMT, 15 February 2013

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UPDATED:

19:48 GMT, 15 February 2013

Former England and Scotland coach Andy Robinson will be unveiled as Bristol's new director of rugby on Monday.

The 48-year-old resigned from his Scotland post late last year after they slumped to defeat against Tonga at the end of an autumn campaign which also featured losses to New Zealand and South Africa.

The long-time Bath stalwart as player and coach has retained strong West Country links and will be placed in charge of Bristol’s quest to gain promotion from the Championship back into the Aviva Premiership.

Andy Robinson

Andy Robinson being inducted into the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame during at the Hurlingham Club on February 7, 2013

Andy Robinson has had mixed results as an international rugby boss but was inducted into the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame earlier this month (right)

Robinson was forwards coach under Sir
Clive Woodward when England won the World Cup and he subsequently took
on the head coach role from 2004-2006, before resigning following a
dismal series of results.

He resurfaced at Edinburgh and made a sufficiently positive impression to be given the Scotland job in 2009. He led them at the World Cup two years later, but they suffered a pool stage exit for the first time.

Robinson also won eight England caps as a player.

Life after Andy: Scotland have lost one and won one in this year's Six Nations

Life after Andy: Scotland have lost one and won one in this year's Six Nations

Bristol are battling to secure a place
in the Championship play-offs, although Newcastle remain firm favourites
to secure the one available promotion spot.

Head coach Liam Middleton is set to remain in his role after Robinson's arrival.

England v Scotland at the Six Nations – win tickets

Win tickets to England v Scotland at the Six Nations – courtesy of BMW

PUBLISHED:

15:08 GMT, 29 January 2013

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UPDATED:

15:08 GMT, 29 January 2013

Sportsmail has teamed up with BMW to offer you the chance to watch England's Six Nations opener against Scotland at Twickenham.

As proud partners of England rugby, BMW are ready to give you tickets to be at the Calcutta Cup on Saturday, February 2.

BMW

BMW has launched the BMW Performance Academy, a programme that aims to support the RFU’s development of up and coming young players.

To be in with a chance of winning, just answer the following question:

Who is the coach of Scotland a) Scott Johnson
b) Gavin Hastings
c) Andy Robinson

E-mail your answer, along with your name, address and contact number to:

[email protected]

to arrive by 11am on Thursday, January 31.

PLEASE NOTE:
You must validate your entry with the words BMW ENGLAND V SCOTLAND in your
subject box; prize does not include travel or accomodation; normal Associated
Newspapers terms and conditions apply – the Editor's decision is final.

BMW

BMW will also have ten BMW Sweet Chariots on hand at Twickenham on England home match days throughout this year's RBS 6 Nations ready to carry lucky fans home.

For a chance for you or someone from your rugby club to enjoy a lift home in a chauffeur driven BMW X5, visit rfu.com/bmwsweetchariots

#SweetChariot Carry Me Home.

Boxing review of 2012, by Jeff Powell, with Ricky Hatton, Manny Pacquiao and more

Jeff Powell's review of 2012, with Ricky Hatton, Manny Pacquiao and more

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UPDATED:

21:40 GMT, 24 December 2012

'Tis the season to put on a few pounds, let the stitches heal the wounds, to soothe the swollen hands, take the weight off the feet without every second counting… and confer the annual awards.

Anno Domni 2012 began with Muhammad Ali further defying Parkinson’s by reaching his landmark 70th birthday. It ended with Manny Pacquiao being knocked flat out of contention as pound-for-pound king by the anatomically reconstructed 39-year-old Juan Manuel Marquez.

Between those ring-posts, history was made…

BOXER OF THE YEAR

Sergio Martinez achieved, at last, the recognition and the world title of which he had been deprived for too long.

The Argentine matinee idol, having begun his year by knocking out our own Matthew Macklin, went on to beat Son of Chavez and thus overcome the boxing politics in which he had been unfairly entangled.

He did so with a master-class for 11 rounds of dazzling style against Julio Cesar Jnr, capped off by his courageous recovery from a 12th round knock-down. The classic middleweight division found its latest successor to Sugar Ray Robinson.

Champ: Sergio Martinez recovered from a late knockdown to claim victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr

Champ: Sergio Martinez recovered from a late knockdown to claim victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr

BRITISH BOXER OF THE YEAR

Carl Froch, the outstanding fighter of his UK generation, gritted his teeth to come back from last year.s disappointing Super Six Final defeat by the accomplished Andre Ward.

He did so in commanding fashion, putting an end to the fancied Lucien Bute's unbeaten record to regain a world super-middleweight title.

A similar stoppage blitzing of Yusaf Mack not only gave the Nottingham Cobra a rousing homecoming but served notice on Ward and Mikkel Kessler that he intends, in 2013, to avenge the only two defeats of his warrior career.

Pride of Britain: Carl Froch was back to his brilliant best in 2012, especially against Yusaf Mack

Pride of Britain: Carl Froch was back to his brilliant best in 2012, especially against Yusaf Mack

WOMAN BOXER OF THE YEAR

Nicola Adams took her indelible place in the record books by becoming the first female to win Olympic gold in the boxing ring.

The wee lass from Leeds lit up London 2012 with her sunshine smile and lifted the roof off the cacophonous ExCel Arena by decking Chinese legend Can Can Ren en route to winning her historic final.

FIGHT OF THE YEAR

Manny Pacquiao v Juan Manuel Marquez*.

The asterix is there because the veteran Mexican idol had turned to a self-confessed former Olympics steroid provider to build him up physically in his desperation to secure a result against the legendary PacMan at the fourth attempt.

Marquez consistently denied using drugs to turn himself into a mini Arnold Schwarzenagger. So while there is no boxer of the year accolade from me, there is no denying that the Las Vegas night in its own right, with both men floored before Marquez landed his Hail Mary punch as Pacquiao appeared to be on the point of sixth round victory, was the thriller of 2012.

A broken man: Juan Manuel Marquez finally got the better of his old foe Manny Pacquiao

A broken man: Juan Manuel Marquez finally got the better of his old foe Manny Pacquiao

TRAINER OF THE YEAR

Rob McCracken not only brought Froch back from the professional brink to a third world title but also guided Team GB’s boxers to a rich medal haul at London 2012.

The first part of that double act has set up Britain's top prize-fighter for block-busting world super-middleweight title re-matches against Kessler and Ward in the coming 12 months.

The second part delivered not only Olympic glory but increased funding for this country’s amateur boxers.

SWANSONG OF THE YEAR

Ricky Hatton returned to the stage of pain for one last hurrah… and hurrah it was even though he over-matched himself after more than three years' absence by taking on an immediate past world champion.

We still love you: Ricky Hatton gave his fans once last chance to see him action, but was defeated

We still love you: Ricky Hatton gave his fans once last chance to see him action, but was defeated

The Hitman paid the price in the form of a crippling blow to that part of his body rendered most vulnerable by his past life of hard-boozing, his liver.

But he was ahead on the score-cards at the time and remains dear to the hearts of his army of fans, a sell-out 20,000 of whom sang him out of the ring for the last time and into a future as a trainer and promoter.

The sound of bells ringing in the ears – rather than the church steeples at this time of year – has stopped for the moment, but the memories linger on. Happy Christmas.

League Two round up: Northampton beat Shots as Accrington hold Plymouth

League Two round up: Northampton beat Shots as Accrington hold Plymouth

PUBLISHED:

18:36 GMT, 22 December 2012

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UPDATED:

18:36 GMT, 22 December 2012

Just two npower League Two fixtures took place on Saturday after the inclement weather forced all other games to be postponed.

In the matches that went ahead Northampton secured their first home win in five with a 2-0 success over struggling Aldershot.

Jake Robinson fired Northampton into the lead just after half-time, before Clive Platt sealed the win in stoppage time.

Leveling up: Accrington's James Beattie scores against Plymouth

Leveling up: Accrington's James Beattie scores against Plymouth

In the other fixture Accrington came from a goal behind to draw 1-1 at home to Plymouth.

Onismor Bhasera put Argyle ahead from close range, only for player-coach James Beattie to level for Accrington, who had goalkeeper Paul Rachubka sent off late on.

Birmingham Crystal Palace match report:

Birmingham 2 Crystal Palace 2: Diop pegs back Murray-powered Eagles

PUBLISHED:

17:32 GMT, 15 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:32 GMT, 15 December 2012

Battling Birmingham fought back from two goals down to share the points with npower Championship promotion hopefuls Crystal Palace.

It looked like it was game over when Palace goal machine Glenn Murray made it 20 goals for the season as he completed his double to make it 2-0 on the hour mark.

But substitute Nikola Vidic and Papa Bouba Diop levelled things up to ensure Lee Clark's men claimed a share of the spoils.

On target: Papa Bouba Diop leaps to head home the equaliser

On target: Papa Bouba Diop leaps to head home the equaliser

Match facts

Birmingham: Butland, Caddis (Hancox 58), Caldwell, Davies, Robinson, Burke (Zigic 65), Reilly, Diop, Elliott (Hall 56), King, Lovenkrands.

Subs Not Used: Doyle, Ibanez, Morrison, Redmond.

Booked: Burke, Lovenkrands.

Goals: Zigic 66, Diop 82.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Ramage, Delaney, Parr, Bolasie, Garvan, Dikgacoi, Zaha, Murray (Wilbraham 82), Moritz (Gabbidon 77).

Subs Not Used: Price, Easter, Moxey, O'Keefe, Appiah.

Booked: Parr.

Goals: Murray 39,60.

Att: 17,158

Ref: Scott Mathieson (Cheshire).

The latest Championship table, fixtures and results

It was the hosts who showed first
intent, Chris Burke's 18-yard effort bringing Palace keeper Julian
Speroni into action after eight minutes.

Paul Robinson then tried his luck but his effort cleared the bar as the Blues dictated things at the start.

Clark's men had made all the early running but their enthusiastic
approach cost them after 29 minutes when Chris Burke was booked for
bringing down Andre Moritz.

Burke then tried to break the deadlock with a speculative shot from
distance which sailed wide of the target as the hosts continued to
dominate proceedings.

Speroni was in the action again nine minutes before the break when he
saved from Peter Lovenkrands' 12-yard effort, and the keeper was
relieved to see a header from Curtis Davies go wide following a Wade
Elliott corner.

There had been little seen of Palace's swashbuckling style in the first
half but credit had to be given to the Blues' approach that had denied
Holloway's men any space at all.

But having weathered the storm for most of the first half, it was Palace
who took the lead just six minutes before the break when Yannick
Bolasie's break from the right gave Murray an easy tap-in.

It was typical smash-and-grab stuff and Holloway will have been
delighted with the scoreline – if not his side's below-par performance –
at the break.

City picked up where they had left off after the interval, with Burke
again testing Speroni from distance as Clark's men kept up their
considerable efforts.

At the other end, Palace's Kagisho Dikgacoi went close following an Owen Garvan corner.

Elliott was replaced by Robert Hall within 10 minutes of the restart as
Clark signalled a change – and hopefully a change of luck – in front of
goal.

But it wasn't to be as Murray grabbed his second of the afternoon for
Palace on the hour, stabbing home from close range after good work from
Jonathan Parr.

Zigic replaced Burke with 25 minutes to go and within a minute the
striker had grabbed a goal back for the hosts, heading home King's
cross.

And it was 2-2 with eight minutes left when Diop headed home Hall's cross.

Rugby Autumn Internationals immortalised in Lego

Now you can never Lego of history! Ashton and Tuilagi brilliance immortalised as toys

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UPDATED:

17:35 GMT, 13 December 2012

England rugby kit sponsors Canterbury have teamed up with talented filmmaker and animator Graham Love to create a brilliant Lego film which tells the story of the autumn internationals.

The innovative clip lasts one minute and 18 seconds and begins with Tim Visser scoring Scotland’s first try against New Zealand for an incredible seven years, though the Scots were beaten 51-22 by the All Blacks, who maintained their 107-year long unbeaten record against the Tartan Army.

The next international star to be immortalised into Lego is the Samoan George Pisi as he storms to a try in their shock 19-26 victory against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Scroll down to watch the video

Ash Splash! England's unforgettable win over New Zealand in the Autumn Internationals has been immortalised in Lego by filmmaker Graham Love

Ash Splash! England's unforgettable win over New Zealand in the Autumn Internationals has been immortalised in Lego by filmmaker Graham Love

The clip progresses with Manu Tuilagi’s controversial try as England fell to a defeat against South Africa and cheekily pokes fun at England’s rugby purple kit, displaying a tweet from Graham Love that says: 'Stick to white. #Englandisall.'

There is even space to make reference to the resignation of Andy Robinson, Scotland’s head coach, after Tonga defeated Scotland 15-21 at Pittodrie on November 24, with a mocked-up newspaper front page called The Scotsboy declaring: “You’ve been Tongaed”.

Silverware: The film features great moments from the Autumn matches involving all the Home Nations

Silverware: The film features great moments from the Autumn matches involving all the Home Nations

The film, however, ends on a triumphant note as Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi score tries as England defeat New Zealand at Twickenham to bring an end to the All-Blacks 20 match run of games undefeated.

Watch the film in full

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Mark Devlin denies reports Brentford fans attacked Karl Robinson with pint glass

Brentford chief Devlin denies reports fans attacked MK Dons boss Robinson with pint glass

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UPDATED:

12:57 GMT, 12 December 2012

Police are looking into an incident between Brentford fans and MK Dons manager Karl Robinson following Saturday's match at Griffin Park.

Stewards had to step in to prevent a confrontation between Robinson and a group of Bees supporters following the home side's 3-2 win.

Brentford chief executive Mark Devlin confirmed there had been an incident as Robinson was walking to the team bus, but categorically denied reports that a pint glass was thrown.

Shaken: MK Dons boss Karl Robinson was set upon by a group of Brentford fans

Shaken: MK Dons boss Karl Robinson was set upon by a group of Brentford fans

'I was distressed to read reports about a glass being thrown, I witnessed the events myself,' Devlin said.

'Karl Robinson was being escorted to the team coach, some of our fans were goading him and Karl Robinson reacted. There was almost an incident but our stewards stepped in.

'Some beer was thrown, most of which hit our operations manager and a couple of stewards.

'I can categorically say no glass was thrown at Karl Robinson.

'We have the police here at the moment and they are currently reviewing the footage from Saturday.'

A Dons spokesman added: 'We are aware of an incident at Griffin Park involving our manager Karl Robinson and a group of Brentford supporters.

'MK Dons will assist Brentford with their investigation into the incident, while this is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.'

Karl Robinson attacked with pint glass after MK Dons lost to Brentford

MK Dons manager Robinson attacked with pint glass after Brentford defeat

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UPDATED:

00:43 GMT, 12 December 2012

MK Dons manager Karl Robinson was ‘shaken’ after being attacked with a glass by a group of Brentford fans following his side’s defeat at Griffin Park this weekend.

Robinson was walking to the team bus when the group of around 20 supporters threatened and set upon the 32-year-old manager.

Stewards had to step in to stop the incident escalating further, and Brentford are now working with the police to catch the gang with the use of CCTV footage.

Shaken: MK Dons manager Karl Robinson was set upon by a group of Brentford fans

Shaken: MK Dons manager Karl Robinson was set upon by a group of Brentford fans

The shocking attack was one of a number of incidents this weekend which have blemished the reputation of the sport.

Robinson was attacked on Saturday, less than 24 hours before ugly scenes overshadowed Manchester United’s derby win at City.

Rio Ferdinand was struck by a missile thrown from the crowd after Robin van Persie scored the winner, which left a nasty cut above his left eye, before a fan ran onto the pitch.

Sebastien Bassong was also allegedly racially abused during Norwich’s victory over Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.

Although no charges have been brought for the incident involving Robinson, Brentford have asked the police to attend a meeting at the club on Wednesday, according to the Mirror.

Jubilant: Robinson guided the Dons to victory over AFC Wimbledon

Jubilant: Robinson guided the Dons to victory over AFC Wimbledon

Brentford chief executive Mark Devlin told the paper: ‘There was a minor incident when Karl Robinson was leaving Griffin Park on Saturday to get on to the Milton Keynes Dons’ team coach.

‘There was beer thrown towards him. The Brentford FC stewards and security staff dealt with the incident swiftly and professionally at the time.

‘We are currently working with the Metropolitan Police to review all the CCTV and video footage from Saturday’s match.’

Southampton want to sign Scott Dann

Adkins wants 6m-rated Dann to shore up Saints defence in January

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 9 December 2012

Southampton intend to revive their interest in Blackburn defender Scott Dann next month.

Manager Nigel Adkins was put off by Rovers’ demand for a 6million fee in the summer when he initially enquired.

Wanted man: Scott Dann (left) is a target for Premier League Southampton

Wanted man: Scott Dann (left) is a target for Premier League Southampton

But he has continued to send scouts to check on Dann, 25, and is willing to table an offer.

Blackburn meanwhile, who are also braced for the sale of goalkeeper Paul Robinson, are interested in Stoke midfielder Wilson Palacios and Tottenham keeper Brad Friedel.