An intriguing tussle is set to play out at the Principality Stadium this weekend
Six Nations Wales v England Preview
England’s cricketers may have struggled for half-centuries, let alone centuries, in the day-night Test against India, but major milestones will be hit by players on both teams in this Six Nations match at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.
It’s one of the less experienced players on the pitch who could get the most attention, though, at least from England’s kickers. They are expected to try to put pressure on 20-year-old Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit with high balls – maybe a few spirals from George Ford – but he does have expert ‘bomb defuser’ Liam Williams to assist.
Plus, if England’s kicking game lacks accuracy and the chase lacks intensity – as it has quite often in recent months – they could simply be presenting a dangerous Wales back three with the opportunity to counter. Although, the prospect of seeing a footrace between Rees-Zammit and Jonny May is certainly one to get excited about.
Eddie Jones’s selection of six forwards on the bench would suggest he hopes his team can dominate Wales physically in the tight exchanges. Wales’ set-piece has improved since the autumn but there are definitely still chinks England will be looking to expose, particularly at lineout time where the hosts have the worst success rate (81%) of any team in this year’s championship.
Many point to the fact Wales’ opponents were reduced to 14 men in their previous two wins and while they were far from convincing in those victories against Ireland and Scotland, they did show dogged determination (as well as the odd spark of magic from Rees-Zammit).
That steely mentality tends to keep Wales in the fight. Take last year against England – they looked out of it at 33-16 but came back to narrow the gap to 33-30 at Twickenham (there was a red card in that match too!).
Even without the cacophony of noise generated by a capacity Cardiff crowd, intensity levels will rise for this one and it should be tight. It’s Wales v England after all.
Related: Eight great England v Wales matches
What’s the big team news?
Wales have named a different player at scrum-half for the third match running, with Kieran Hardy in the No 9 shirt, while George North and Jonathan Davies will combine in midfield after returning from injury.
Josh Adams is back following his suspension for breaching Covid-19 rules and Liam Williams shifts from wing to full-back.
Up front, Wayne Pivac has made one change with fit-again Josh Navidi starting at blindside instead of Aaron Wainwright.
Despite his side being widely criticised for their performances in the opening two rounds, Eddie Jones has made just two changes to the England team that beat Italy.
Jamie George regains his starting spot at hooker with Luke Cowan-Dickie dropping to the bench and Mark Wilson is back at blindside after Courtney Lawes picked up an injury in training, but the back-line remains the same.
Jones has again gone for a six-two split between forwards and backs on the bench, with Leicester back-row George Martin in line to win his first cap.
What have the coaches said?
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac on the centre pairing: “George brings a lot of excitement to the position. He’s got that outside break, he’s big and strong, he can do the donkey work in the middle of the park if he needs to.
“Jonathan brings a wealth of experience and we look at him as a 12, not as a 13. The last time he played for us was at 12 against Italy and I thought he did a good job in attack and defence on that day.
“Foxy (Davies) is looking very good from our point of view and when he pulls that Welsh jersey on, he never lets the team down.”
England head coach Eddie Jones: “Wales is a really special fixture and rivalry. There is a long history between the two nations and the game means a lot to both countries.
“We know we’ll be up against a strong Welsh challenge on Saturday, but we’ve got a very good team to face it. We want to show people what we are capable of, keep building our performances and the best is yet to come from this England team.”
What are the odds?
Wales may be higher in the table but England are the favourites for this match, with odds of 5-12 on Bet365. A Wales win is 11-5 or you can get odds of 22-1 on a draw.
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Any interesting statistics?
- If Wales win, they will win the Triple Crown for the 22nd time – only England have won it more (26).
- Wales have won only one of their last seven matches against England in the Six Nations – but games have been tight, with single-figure winning margins in the last six.
- England have never conceded more than two tries in a Six Nations game in Wales – the only team to do so.
- Wales have made the fewest handling errors in the 2021 championship so far (22) while England have made the most (35).
- These two sides top this year’s charts for maul metres made, England with 44 and Wales with 43.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Wales v England, Saturday 27 February, Principality Stadium
The match kicks off at 4.45pm and will be broadcast live on BBC1 and S4C, plus BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales & Radio Cymru and the BBC sport website.
France’s Pascal Gauzere has the whistle for this match in Cardiff and he will be assisted by Irishmen Andrew Brace and Frank Murphy. Alex Ruiz, of France, is the Television Match Official.
What are the line-ups?
Wales: Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomos Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tupuric, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Botham, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.
England: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, George Martin, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Max Malins.
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