Wales travel to rugby HQ this weekend to face their old rivals England in the 3rd round of the 6 Nations. Both teams head in to the game with a perfect record, however both Wales established stars and England’s young pretenders are yet to fire on all cylinders.
The Welsh will go in to the tie as slight favourites, they have more international experience in the forward pack and have a more potent attacking backline, and by that I mean a set of backs that want to try and play rugby.
For England to win this game the need to win boring, if they let Wales play an expansive, open game then they will not be able to compete the Welsh have too much class and power out wide with the likes of Jamie Roberts and the mountain that is George North – who is fit following his recent injury scare. England need to stop Wales at source by gaining parity at the set piece England can frustrate their counterparts and that’s when they need to pounce. If England gives Mike Phillips a platform to set the Welsh backline firing it will be all over at halftime.
I feel like Wales are going to have enough to brush off any English resistance. Under Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards they have found a strong mentality and are a much more resilient team than years gone by, so when England do put the pressure on Wales will be able to cope.
As in most games of rugby the game will be defined by two battles – the battle in the back row and the battle in midfield. Wales will have too much in the back row for England, captain Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate compliment each other perfectly and provide a perfect balance. In the England back row Ben Morgan and Chris Robshaw have had even less experience than the young Welsh back row, and whilst Robshaw has undeniable quality, he hasn’t been there and done it.
In midfield I think Wales might be becoming too predictable and against Scotland Jamie Roberts wasn’t very influential at all, however with George North coming in off his wing on a regular basis it’s difficult for England to know where to look. In the England midfield Brad Barritt is a proven defensive player and rarely misses a tackle and with Manu Tuilagi you know exactly what you’re going to get. In my opinion the two midfields will neutralize each other but Wales have more creativity and the Welsh have wingers such as Alex Cuthbert and North who can pop up in that area and pose the opposition all sorts of problems. With Charlie Hodgson out injured England no longer have an outside half who is defensively weak, young Owen Farrell has proved to be a steely character in the midfield who is not likely to miss many tackles, however a few early charges from the back row and Roberts may just put the youngster off his game. He is however an undeniable talent and this week Wales coach Neil Jenkins has likened Farrell to a young Jonny Wilkinson, this is a very big compliment so Wales obviously respect the youngsters ability.
Wales are going to run out victors in this one by less than 10 points. Even though England are returning to Twickenham I still think that the Welsh will have too much and will over-power England. That said when it comes to Wales v England the form guide counts for nothing and all bets are off, it’s going to be exciting.