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England v Wales - Match Preview


Lads In Town

By Craig Muncey
March 11 2016

We have had both coaching groups exchanging views on each oppositions team's set pieces, trying to play mind games with each other, plus and most importantly the referee for tomorrow's match Craig Joubert, but now the war of words is almost over.  We are now just over 24 hours before the two old rivals clash again. So who will come out on top? Which team on Saturday night will be putting themselves in pole position to win the Six Nations Championship, and if it is indeed England, then not only the Championship could be in their sights, but a Grand Slam as well. This article looks at the two teams, my thoughts on key battles in the game, which will have a big say in the final outcome and finally, my prediction on who wil come out on top. Hope you enjoy

England v Wales - Match Preview

Team News

Eddie Jones and his coaching staff have selected an unchanged starting fifteen for tomorrow's match, the temptation to bring in Manu Tuilagi, to try to match physicality with Jamie Roberts has been resisted.  Tuilagi has had limited game time since returning from injury, so Jones has decided he has to make do with being a substitute.  An interesting option to come off the bench late on where his ability to get over the gain line, might well be a valuable skill to have.

Owen Farrell therefore continues at 12, giving England another ball player outside of George Ford, so can take the pressure off Ford with his kicking game from hand, plus his excellent goal kicking.  We have seen in last two matches with Ford and Farrell in tandem, England can get the ball wider far quicker with greater skill of passing than they have shown in recent years.

Mike Brown also continues at 15, escaping any ban following trying to clean some mud off his boots on Conor Murray's face.  Brown is an excellent full back but his temperament continues to worry the English and no doubt Wales will try to exploit that given the opportunity on Saturday.  Ben Youngs continues at 9, which to some is a surprise seeing the impact Danny Care has shown off the bench for his country and his showings for his club Harlequins.

In the pack Joe Marler starts at 1, Robin McBryde the Welsh forwards coach, brought up in a press conference questions around the legality of the angle Marler scrummages at, this is not the first time this has been raised about Joe Marler, so will be interesting to see how Craig Joubert interprets this at scrum time. 

Second row, George Kruis will look to continue to impress as he has this Championship with his all round game, and Maro Itoje, who looks a hugely impressive player for the future will partner him. Still not sure Itoje long term future is at lock I see him more as a 6, but nevertheless, he is a fantastic athlete who Wales need to keep a close eye on with his line bursts, ability to offload and just generally take a big grip on the game.

In the back row, Chris Robshaw will start at his more natural position of 6, Billy Vunipola, who has been my player of the tournament so far, playing at 8, and James Haskell, who is a natural 6 playing at 7. English back row have played pretty well, been dogged in the contact area, but are still lacking a natural jackal over the ball, will that come back to haunt them?

English bench looks strong and well balanced, players such as Maku Vunipola, Kieran Brooks, Jack Clifford and Joe Launchbury will give some additional grunt when brought into the fray.  England will miss Jamie George, the Saracens hooker, who has been excellent off the bench, with his ball carrying, set piece work and offloading ability, will be interesting to see how relatively untried Luke Cowan-Dickie on the international stage will go, if he is needed to replace captain Dylan Hartley, if the game is very tight, and the Exeter Chiefs hooker comes on for last 20 minutes at set pieces in particular, especially if Wales bring on Luke Charteris, a menace to any hooker at line out time.

Backs on the bench look strong and balanced as well, Care is dangerous around the fringes when legs get tired, and in Tuilagi and Elliot Daly they have potential match winners, ready to become heroes given the chance.  I rate Daly very highly, can play a number of positions very well, and looks to have the x factor to make a real difference to the English team.

Wales are also unchanged in their starting fifteen. Rhys Webb is back on the bench for the first time for Wales in 6 months, Webb has shown up well for Ospreys in last couple of matches, and in some sources, there were calls for Webb to start.  Gareth Davies is a dangerous player at 9, who in tight matches can score a try that completely can swing the momentum of a game (England already know this), but can be slow to get the ball away from the base and needs to sharpen his kicking game, but in my opinion, Davies deserves to retain the starting shirt. 

In the pack, there may have been some discussions around starting fit again Luke Charteris at lock, but they have decided to go with the aggressive, robust style of Bradley Davies.  The Wasps lock is a better ball carrier and hits rucks with more aggression than Charteris which maybe needed initially in the match.  I have no doubt we will see Charteris, who in my opinion, is the best defensive lock at the rolling maul in world rugby, at some point during the match.

On the bench, Wales will be looking for positive impacts from the substitutes.  Wales have a good balance in the forwards on the bench, and if points are needed, or game becomes open, Justin Tipuric is the perfect impact player to have closely followed by Ken Owens.  In the back substitutes, I dont like the blend of Gareth Anscombe and Rhys Priestland on the same bench, I would prefer one of them and then a winger or centre there, but Welsh coaching staff maybe looking at having two players who can move the ball wider later in the game, so almost have them on the pitch in tandem one at 10 and one at 15, player at first or second receiver alternating.

Key Battles

No doubt the scrum will be scrutinised after all the media attention this week.  Marler with his angle of scrummaging and Wales and their perceived early engagement in the scrum.  England have had the upper hand in the scrum in recent matches between the two teams.  Marler has caused Sansom Lee a lot of problems in last two matches they have played.  Lee is now fully fit and looking strong in the scrum, so will be interesting to see how that goes.

In the line out the Welsh have been outstanding on own ball, so Welsh fans will be hoping that continues.  I do think Wales have more options at line out time than England, with England it is Itoje or Kruis for the large majority of the time.  I see England going to the front and middle mainly, where as Wales have line out athletes such as Davies, AW Jones, Faletau and Warburton, so can be more flexible.

As mentioned earlier, can see England going wider earlier than Wales in attack.  They will not want to go down the 10/12 channel too often on first phase ball, whilst Wales will want to do be doing that, with Roberts, North and Cuthbert looking to test Farrell and Ford in defence and the lack of a 7 getting across to support off quick ball.  Wales will need to be very careful of Jonathan Joseph, who 2 weeks ago was back to his try scoring best. 

England have a big physical pack, and will look to keep ball tight in the forwards, pick and drive, try and get around the corner, before releasing the backs on front foot ball.  Wales have to stop their big ball carriers such as Itoje, Kruis and in particular Vunipola on the gain line, or as close as possible, if they can manage that with the tried and trusted chop tackling of Dan Lydiate then this could have a major say in who comes out on top.  If they stop England from getting momentum, then Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau can get over the ball and force turnovers and win penalties.  England do not have the skillsets of those two at the ruck, and will try and hit the Welsh off their feet at the breakdown to avoid that confrontation.  England's best player over the ball at the ruck in my opinion is their tight head prop Dan Cole, I see this as a big advantage to Wales.

Match Prediction

Wales go back to Twickenham where they recorded a great victory in September last year (I was there) and have nothing to fear.  England recorded a victory in the Six Nations last year in Cardiff, by being hugely physical in the contact area, and throwing in 3 or 4 players in contact to hold the Welsh ball carrier up and was very successful with this.  Wales need to be alert to this tactic, and be more intelligent with the ball in contact (not always their strongest point).

Eddie Jones I believe will improve the English rugby side considerably with the manner he wants them to play, but I think Wales are catching them at the right time.  Both teams have very impressive defensive patterns and are hard to break down, but I see Wales getting a lot of success in the centre positions, and I see Wales having the upper hand at the breakdown, and have just enough to gain a narrow victory.

Wales to win by 4 points.

 

Craig Muncey

 

 

 

  

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England v Wales - Match Preview
1876 Cardiff Rugby (IP Logged)
11/03/2016 14:21
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Re: England v Wales - Match Preview
TerryG (IP Logged)
12/03/2016 00:52
England will win. They just have too much mojo for the welsh to overcome.

Overall how do you guys think Wales will do in the Six nations?

Since I don't have a good background in Rugby, but I do enjoy it, I am constantly befuddled by the intergration of different nationalities within a nation's club. For instance, why would England allow a New Zealander on their team? Wouldn't it make more sense to have an All England team which would highlight the nations players? Certainly England, Wales, France, South Africa, and others could field twenty or so players from their own land.

I feel that would be a "truer" representation of a nation's ability to compete against other nations.

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