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England v Wales - teams and prediction

ROUND TWO PREVIEW: England captain Jamie George is happy to let patriotic pride fuel his side when they face Wales in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday.

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It has long been suggested the Celtic nations benefit from an extra dose of emotion when playing ‘colonial’ power England but George is keen to stress his side has plenty of passion of their own.

The Saracens hooker, however, accepts it is down to England to get a capacity crowd of more than 82,000 roaring them on given they were booed off the field in their last match at Twickenham following a first loss to Fiji in a World Cup warm-up in August.

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England went on to finish third at the World Cup and they launched their Six Nations campaign with a narrow 27-24 win away to Italy last weekend – George’s first match as skipper.

“Something we have talked about a lot as a group is passion and not being afraid to show passion. I’ve certainly been encouraging of that this week,” said George.

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“If people want to use that passion and emotion, as long as we are controlled and clear about what we are doing rugby-wise, I don’t see why we shouldn’t do that.

“We don’t want to replicate anyone else’s emotion – we are never going to try to do things another team’s way. We want to be authentic.”

‘Win rate not good enough’

England have lost half of their Six Nations matches at Twickenham over the last three years, a run of results that predates the start of coach Steve Borthwick’s reign.

“First and foremost, we’ve identified that our win rate there hasn’t been good enough,” said George.

“The most intimidating atmospheres come off the back of the most intimidating teams.”

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The only change to England’s matchday 23 in Rome is the return of Ellis Genge on the bench after the prop pulled out on the morning of the Italy game with a foot injury.

Wales suffered an extraordinary 26-27 loss at home to Scotland last weekend – a match where they were 0-27 behind.

They head to London on a seven-match losing streak at Twickenham, while it is 12 years since Wales last enjoyed a Six Nations success in southwest London.

But coach Warren Gatland boasts a fine record at ‘headquarters’.

The New Zealander oversaw a European Cup and three Premiership final victories at Twickenham with Wasps, and launched his Wales career with an upset win over England at the ground in 2008 before further triumphs in 2012 and 2015.

“The first four times I went there, we won – three Premiership finals and a Champions Cup final,” said Gatland. “I don’t find it intimidating at all!”

But the 60-year-old is well aware he is not the one playing the game on Saturday. “I love the atmosphere, and it is even more special if you can walk away with a win,” he said. That is not easy to do.”

While England have put their faith in continuity, Gatland has made seven changes to the Wales team following Scotland’s first win in Cardiff for 22 years.

Wales have a new front row, while centre George North returns from injury for his 50th Six Nations appearance and Ioan Lloyd makes a first Test start as flyhalf.

North has 119 caps, more than twice as many as any of his teammates, with Gatland saying: “What he brings to the squad is that experience, calmness and a voice.”

And if the powerhouse midfielder can help his side start as they finished last weekend, it would be a fitting tribute to Wales greats JPR Williams and Barry John, so often thorns in England’s side in the late 1960s and 70s.

Fullback Williams died in January and flyhalf John on Sunday, and there will be a minute’s applause for both players, along with former England captain Mike Weston, before kick-off.

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Players to watch:

For England: Tommy Freeman will be out to build on his performance after an impressive display during the Six Nations opener against Italy last weekend. The wing set up a couple of tries and made some lethal runs which will be vital for England this weekend. Debutant Ethan Roots was just as impressive and will certainly be closely monitored by Wales this weekend, especially at the breakdown. Maro Ijote and Jamie George’s physicality always make them the standouts and it will be no different against Wales.

For Wales: The return of George North gives Wales a bit more punch down the middle. Ioan Lloyd has the massive task of dictating proceedings in place of injured Sam Costelow. Lloyd will be helped by Tomos Williams, who got the nod instead of Gareth Davies at scrumhalf. The new front row of Gareth Thomas, Elliot Dee and Keiron Assiratti will be out to dominate the scrums when they face England. Tommy Reffell will have a little bit of inside knowledge about England, given that he plies his trade at Leicester Tigers.

Prediction

@rugby365com: England by 12 points

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England v Wales - teams and prediction

Teams: 

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ethan Roots, 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jamie George (captain), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Chandler Cunningham-South, 21 Danny Care, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.

Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Alex Mann, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Dafydd Jenkins (captain), 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Archie Griffin, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Cai Evans, 23 Mason Grady.

Date: Saturday, February 10
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 16.45 (16.45 GMT)
Expected weather conditions: Sunny intervals and light winds with a high of 12°C and low of 5 °C
Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

*Additional source: AFP

 

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