GLOUCESTER legend Phil Vickery has backed England to come of age and dethrone Warren Gatland’s pride of Lions as kings of Europe.
Wales travel to Twickenham on Sunday with a side containing 12 British and Irish Lions, including 10 that started the famous third Test in Sydney.
England boast just Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola from the series clincher, but Vickery reckons they can beat the reigning champions.
He said: “Wales are the tried and tested, the been-there-done-its versus the nearly, the not quite there, the potentials who want it and need it.
“Wales go in as slight favourites. They have a lot of big-game players but if they don’t play like big-game players on Sunday it counts for nothing. England are going to win.
“They have bags of potential but the pressure is on Wales because they have done it and there’s that expectation. There’s less pressure on England and they can go on the attack and prove themselves
“Stuart Lancaster’s side have enough there, they have no fear and will get out there and after Wales and put them under pressure. There’s all that emotion from what happened last year and players will raise their game.
“Wales have the best group of players – that’s a fact – but this weekend we will see an inexperienced England side come of age.”
Both sides require a victory to keep their Championship hopes alive, with Ireland and France also in the running to clinch the 2014 title.
Wales are targeting a record-breaking third consecutive title and have not conceded a Red Rose try in 277 minutes of rugby.
But England will be driven by the pain of last season’s 30-3 Millennium Stadium massacre and the former prop believes it is perfectly poised for a titanic encounter.
He said: “It is set up beautifully if you look at the last game against Ireland and what happened with Wales versus France.
“To have four teams still with a realistic chances of winning the title in round three is fantastic and when you look at what happens last year it makes it even more exciting.
“I was unlucky enough to be there last year but it was a fantastic occasion and you could certainly have no qualms about the result.
“But the way England have bounced back and built, they are a totally different team and can’t wait until Wales come to Twickenham, but at the same time Wales will have no fear and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
While Vickery predicts a Red Rose triumph he insists stopping Wales get on the front foot is essential.
Ireland led the way three weeks ago by strangling the Welsh of possession and stopping them at the gain-line.
And the World Cup winner has warned his fellow countrymen that Wales have the firepower to run riot if they are not starved at source.
He added: “Wales did what they had to against Italy and that result against Ireland was the kick up the backside they needed.
“They showed what they can do against France and went at them like wild dogs.
“But with the Welsh back-row and back-line, if they get quality ball they have the power, athleticism and skill to do damage.
“Playing George North in the centre restricted Wales a bit but Jon Davies has the skill, knowledge, nous and tactics.
“ I’m not 100 per cent convinced on Billy Twelvetrees but he has a massive role on the weekend against Jamie Roberts and Davies.
“If England don’t get hold of them they will be in trouble.
“God help us if their back three of Alex Cuthbert, George North and Leigh Halfpenny get front-foot ball.”
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