After the Autumn internationals v Australia and South Africa there would be no one thinking of a coveted grand slam for England however they go to Cardiff by hook or by crook having won all 4 games and the big prize before them. However, the 6 nations title is on the line here and not many people would have thought that after the Autumn Internationals and the first 40 minutes of this competition. But here we are in Cardiff with so much as stake.
Wales have been in shocking form since the Grand Slam win last year and coming in to the tournament were pretty short odds really to finish bottom of the pile but after a 40 minute horror show v Ireland they have been one of the better sides in what really has been a poor 6 nations. They were suffering from injuries and players out of form at the start of the season but they have had players returning all the time and are starting to look to a return to form. That said the victory in France was handed to them and a bounce of the ball saw them see Italy off, while the match against Scotland was low on quality.
15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Bench: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Andrew Coombs, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams
Having both Tupiric and Warburton as two out and out opensides playing could leave the Welsh pack a little lightweight and short in the lineout but ultra competitive on the floor and this is an area you can exploit England with them not committing the numbers to the rucks to secure that ball. It also signals that Wales will want to get this ball moving and away from the big English pack.
England are in a position now to win their first Grand slam since 2003 but the old foe stands in their way and will certainly not make it easy with the championship at stake with an 8 point win. England do have Owen Farrell back but apart from that Lancaster has opted for a similar team to what has done him well so far. After good wins v Scotland and Ireland, England seemed to stutter then in a battle against France before nearly blowing up against a spirited Italy when surely a 30 pt win was on the cards. That was a nervous performance and England going back into their shell and reverting to type with a any win will do attitude.
15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Bench: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.
Some reversals from last weeks game with Farrell back in as with both Youngs and Joe Marler. Again for me this looks to be a very strong bench full of impact and look to be game changers. The problem though will remain with scoring tries with no creativity in the backs and relying on the defence making mistakes with the physicality.
Verdict: Wales have a good record v England and especially so in Cardiff. Wales will look to attack here while England will look to nullify any threat and this could come down to penalty goals. England should look to win penalties with their physical presence, while Wales will pick their rucks to hit and secure ball with their 2 x opensides. It could be a game that is decided by how the referee interprets the breakdown and whose 10 is kicking better. For me England have shown far too many nerves and are still a developing side and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a Welsh win by 5-10 pts.
Best bets. This is not going to be a high scorer and under 39 looks a good bet even with the roof closed. Although the main bets would be Wales to win or Wales between 1 -12. That said it wouldn’t surprise me to see this very tight and the draw could be on the cards and is worth a small bet to trade later on.
Past History – last 4 in Cardiff
Wales 19-9 England
Wales 19-26 England
Wales 23-15 England
Wales 27-18 England