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Flood aims to avenge past failures

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Sportal.co.nz     12 Mar 2013     Getty Images

An England victory at the Millennium Stadium would complete their first championship clean sweep since 2003, when Sir Clive Woodward's team conquered Europe before conquering the world.

But England's stuttering 18-11 victory over Italy has left the door open for Wales to believe they can retain their title. A seven-point victory should be enough for Rob Howley's men.

Two years ago, Flood was in the England side that won the Six Nations title but saw their Grand Slam ambitions ravaged by Ireland in the last game of the championship.

Next Saturday is an opportunity for Flood to exorcise the ghosts by creating a slice of English rugby history.

"There's a big opportunity to make up for what was a really poor performance and an annoying day for us in 2011. It still hurts now, almost," Flood said.

"We need to make sure that we're right and at least give ourselves the best chance to go out and give a good go at it.

"It would've been fantastic to win well (against Italy and boost England's points difference), but ultimately the big test is round the corner.

"Wales will be pretty happy. Wales are in a situation now where them winning the championship isn't too far off.

"Two years ago there was nothing to lose for Ireland. That was their emotion - to ruin our party. This one it's slightly different. There's two teams who theoretically could win this thing.

"We'll be going there as underdogs, they've been playing very, very well of late.

"That's not a bad place for us to be, in terms of mentally. We need to be right on it."

England were not on it against Italy. They lacked composure and accuracy, relying in the end on Flood's dead-eye boot and another defensive performance of real character.

England started well but with every chance wasted - Flood was held up over the line when four white shirts were unmarked outside him - Italy grew in confidence.

Luke McLean scored the only try of the match and Italy would have led in the second half had Luciano Orquera not missed the conversion and a subsequent penalty.

Flood closed out the game and Courtney Lawes stole a vital late lineout to seal a hard-fought win for England, which head coach Stuart Lancaster insisted will act as a kick up the backside.

"We know we have to improve our performance going into the Wales game," Lancaster said.

"Nobody is punching the air in the changing room. We know we can do better. We need to ensure we improve going into next week."

England have injury concerns over Joe Launchbury, who left the stadium with his arm in a sling.