WELSHMAN Simon Jones believes England must not get drawn into a war of words with Australia if they are to retain the Ashes this winter.

Andrew Strauss and his team landed in Perth last week ahead of what promises to be one of the most hotly-contested series in living memory.

The tourists' last trip Down Under, which ended in a 5-0 victory for Ricky Ponting's men, was dominated by sledging on the pitch and verbal sparring off it.

Shane Warne was regularly heard taunting England's players on the pitch while off it, England upped the ante ahead of the series by projecting the image of a jubilant Monty Panesar onto Sydney Harbour bridge.

Things promise to be just as spicy this winter after Kevin Pietersen slammed former Australia coach John Buchanan as a "clown’’ while Strauss described the two sides as being "at war’’.

Australia, for their part, have also made no secret that they will be trying to unsettle England on the pitch with a series of vocal barbs.

But Jones, who had his only Ashes series cut short by a serious knee injury during the first Test in 2002, insists that England must disregard all that and instead just concentrate on their game if they are to retain the Urn.

"This winter it will be very important that they shut off from everything else that's happening around them,’’ said Jones.

"I have been to Australia once and that tour was cut short but from the small time I experienced down there I came to realise that it is very intimidating.

"It's like they are playing with 12. They really do like to intimidate the opposition, get under their skin.

"We have a young, confident side and they will have to think on their feet very quickly if they are to deal with the crowd and the sledging.’’ Opener Shane Watson has revealed that rookie seamer Steven Finn will be one of the England players that the hosts will target this when the series begins in Brisbane on November 25.

Finn, 21, cemented his place in Strauss' team after an excellent summer which included a man of the series performance against Bangladesh.

Jones, who was a key part of England's 2005 Ashes win, is confident that the tall Middlesex paceman will rise above any sledging that comes his way and perform well.

"I've no doubt that they will be targeting him,’’ said Jones, who was speaking at the Co-operative Be Inspired dinner in London on Sunday.

"They always go for the new lad but he is a tall lad who will get wickets.

"I think he needs to do more with the ball in terms of swinging it but that will come in time. This will be an amazing experience for him. It's his first major tour. I hope he learns. He is a great prospect.’’ Strauss will become the first man to lead England to victory Down Under since 1987 if he beats Ricky Ponting's side, who are considered to be much less of a threat without Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Shane Warne, all of whom were prolific in the 2006-07 whitewash.

Jones believes the loss of Warne and McGrath has significantly weakened the hosts and reckons that England have a good chance of victory.

The Hampshire seamer said: "I still think they have a good attack but when you lose Warne and McGrath, you lose a pair that have about 1,200 wickets between them. That's a ridiculous amount of wickets. ’’They used to be able to just throw them the ball and they would break up a partnership.

"It's the best chance we've had to win in a long time,’’ he added.

"Don't get me wrong, it's going to be hard work because the Australians fight hard, especially where England are concerned but England can win.’’ * Simon Jones was speaking at the Co-operative Be Inspired dinner for the launch of the Activate Sport Foundation. Visit http://www.activatesportfoundation.co.uk for more information.