Preview: Wales v England

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 06:38

SIX NATIONS ROUND TWO: England have been doing so well that they are now everybody's target.

But then England have always been Wales's target.

After all, the English imposed upon them, using them for labour in the mines, making attempts to eradicate their language and generally looking down their noses at them.

Heaven to a Welshman would have them beating England as a major component.

The contest between the two countries has been close - 129 matches played, 60 won by England, 57 by Wales and 12 draws. England won the first five in a row.

England is riding the crest of a wave, but we all know that the crest of a wave does not last forever.

The All Blacks were doing that just last year and then Ireland beat them in Chicago.

Since their ignominious departure from the World Cup in 2015, England have won 15 in a row, including beating Australia four times last year, three times in Australia.

But Australia won well in Cardiff three months ago.

To beat the powerful England side, Wales are to going to have to ignite the Celtic fire, the way Ireland did against New Zealand.

Hwyl - that's what Wales needs - an unbeatable upflaring of national pride, determination and energy.

For England are a strong side, busy looking for flare and may be that the millstone of the unbeaten run may be crushing the spirit of adventure.

They still lack the creative instinct that the Welsh have.

Players to Watch:

For Wales: At fullback, you have Leigh Halfpenny, willing to counterattack, with great subtlety. You would want to watch both Welsh wings, George North and Liam Williams, both of whom can throw a switch and suddenly light up a scoring chance. At flyhalf, there is fearless Dan Biggar, so good at sending the ball into the air and catching it out of the air.

For England: Fullback Mike Brown, like his Welsh counterpart, is also willing to counterattack, perhaps with greater strength. Owen Farrell is a joy to watch at inside centre, with his deft touches.

Head to Head: If you take the units, you see how close it is. The English forwards appear more forceful and more certain of solid first-phase possession. Against France, England's scrum had parity and won all 14 of its line-outs. Wales had the better of the Italian scrum, winning four penalties in the match's 12 scrums, but lost one of its 11 line-outs. Penalties count. Wales conceded five in Rome, England eight at Twickenham where England enjoyed a 16-8 advantage over France. Back three versus Back three - and Wales look more likely to score, despite Brown's courage and Jack Nowell's resilience. North's combination of speed, strength and vision make opportunities for him. You may well back England's centres, Wales's halfbacks, Wales's loose forwards with energetic Justin Tipuric leading the way, England at lock and parity between the front rows. Goal-kicking. Both sides have exceptional goal-kickers in Leigh Halfpenny and Owen Farrell, and Elliot Daly showed at Twickenham that he can kick a long way. The contest between big, robust Jonathan Joseph and eager Jonathan Davies could be both interesting and decisive. Then, too, there is the contest between ardent Alun Wyn Jones and exuberant Courtney Lawes.

November Results against common opponents
Wales won 24-20; England won 27-14
Australia: Wales lost 32-8; England won 37-21
South Africa: Wales won 27-13; England won 37-21

Recent results
2016: England won 27-13, London
2016: England won 25-21, London
2015: Wales won 28-25, London (World Cup pool match)
2015: England won 21-16, Cardiff
2014: England won 29-18, London
2013: Wales won 30-3, Cardiff
2012: Wales won 19-12, London
2011: Wales won 19-9, Cardiff
2011: England won 23-19, London
2011: England won 26-19, Cardiff

Prediction: The obvious thing to do is to back the English might, but something says that artistry may win the day and produce a four-point victory for Wales.


Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jamie Roberts.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Wood, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jonny May.

Date: Saturday, February 11
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 16.50 (16.50 GMT)
Expected weather: With the roof set to remain open, the climate is of great importance and it will be mostly cloudy, perhaps with some light rain with a high of 4°C and a low of 2°C
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

By Paul Dobson

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Team P W D L Pts
England 5 4 0 1 19
Ireland 5 3 0 2 14
France 5 3 0 2 14
Scotland 5 3 0 2 14
Wales 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 0