Wales v England - Teams and Predictions
NATIONS CUP, ROUND THREE: England and Wales have been playing against each other for 139 years but Saturday’s Nations Cup match marks a new chapter in one of international rugby union’s oldest rivalries.
Saturday’s behind closed doors match will be the first time the teams have met in Llanelli, the home of one of Welsh rugby’s most famous clubs, with Cardiff’s Principality Stadium having recently been deployed as a temporary medical facility amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Back in 1972, Llanelli defeated rugby superpower New Zealand 9-3, although that match was played at the old Stradey Park rather than Parc Y Scarlets, the venue for this weekend’s fixture.
But some five decades on, the celebrated result still resonates with England coach Eddie Jones and his defence John Mitchell, a New Zealander who was once in charge of the All Blacks.
A “written-off” Wales
Jones believes a “written-off” Wales will “relish” facing his England side in a Nations Cup international at Llanelli on Saturday.
It has led Jones to urge the Six Nations champions to “play with an intensity that Wales have never faced before”.
Jones’ men are overwhelming favourites to win the teams’ final Pool match and assure themselves of a place in next weekend’s Nations Cup final.
Jones has made just a couple of changes to the starting lineup that beat Ireland 18-7, with fully fit flyhalf George Ford starting after coming off the bench at Twickenham last week.
The formidable pack that pulverised the Irish remains intact, while two-try hero Jonny May still provides a cutting edge on the wing.
Wales did end a six-game losing streak last week, but an 18-0 win over second-tier Georgia bears little relation to the task of taking on England, last year’s losing Rugby World Cup finalists.
Moreover, Wales are without several injured first-choice players, notably back-rowers Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi, although flank James Botham – the grandson of England cricket great Ian Botham – is included after a promising Test debut against the Lelos.
Jones, however, told reporters on Thursday: “Wales are in a situation they probably relish. They’ve been written-off… Nothing would make their season sweeter than having a win over England.
“We’re expecting a really tough, brutal sort of game. Twelve months ago they were Grand Slam champions and three points away from making a World Cup final. They’re a talented team and we’ll have to be at our best.”
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Meanwhile, under-pressure Wales coach Wayne Pivac tried to remain upbeat amid his injury problems.
“It’s unfortunate but, as we’ve said all along, it’s going to create opportunities for others and in the loose forwards, it’s young James Botham and Shane Lewis-Hughes.
“They’re a couple of guys with big futures… What a match for these guys to be tested in.”
As for the outspoken Jones’ remarks about “intensity”, the New Zealander said he expected “nothing less”.
“He’s in a position where he can do it,” added Pivac. “The boys have been playing very well in that white jersey.”
Both coaches paid tribute to Welsh referee Nigel Owens, who will be in charge of his 100th Test when France face Italy this weekend.
“It’s a great achievement by a referee and he’s done it with a lot of colour and humour,” said Jones. “He’s certainly added to the game, so congratulations to Nigel.”
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Players to Watch
For Wales: The return of captain Alun Wyn Jones could not come at a better time. Jones is a scary opponent in the physical exchanges and but leadership is needed in a team that has been struggling with direction. Flyhalf Dan Biggar is good at controlling the game, while fullback Leigh Halfpenny adds another lethal boot to the Wales setup – given enough leeway and the pair could be dangerous against England.
For England: The team certainly don’t have any shortage of talent. The back three Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph and Jonny May can be dangerous when given space. May already showed the damages he can do against Ireland last weekend. Owen Farrell is also one to look out for nevermind if he is at flyhalf or centre. In the pack, Maro Itoje, Billy Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler are part of a dynamic group of forwards who can put a team under huge pressure.
Head to head:
The spotlight will be on the midfield battle where Nick Tompkins and Johnny Williams of Wales will have the task of keeping tabs on Henry Slade and Owen Farrell. The encounter between the two back threes will be another exciting feat. While Saturday’s wet weather conditions do not favour running rugby, the kicking game between Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny against Owen Farrell will be intriguing. The breakdown battle will be another enticing aspect, as Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry will test Taulupe Faletau, James Botham and Shane Lloyd-Hughes.
@rugby365com: England to win by five points
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Josh Adams; 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Lloyd Williams; 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 James Botham, 6 Shane Lloyd-Hughes; 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball; 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Owen Watkin
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonathan Joseph, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Joe Launchbury, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Jack Willis, 22 Dan Robson, 23 Anthony Watson.
Date: Saturday, November 28
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli.
Kick-off: 16:00 (16.00 GMT)
Expected weather: There will be a high of 11°C and a low of 3°C with showers and cold weatehr conditoons
Referee: Romain Poite
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzere, Alex Ruiz
TMO: Brian MacNeice
AFP & @rugby365com