Billed as a potential Six Nations Grand Slam decider, one of the oldest rivalries in rugby comes to the Principality stadium this Saturday. England have rediscovered their mojo. Wales are on the brink of an unprecedented winning streak. Someone will crack, but who will it be?
After their start to this Six Nations England are tipped as favourites. So here at Last Word on Rugby we will be looking at the keys for how to beat them. Specifically what Wales need to do on Saturday in order to get themselves a win and set up another Six Nations title.
For Wales to beat England: Start Fast
Over their past seven or eight games England have started incredibly quickly. Going back as far as their tour to South Africa they have scored in the opening minutes of almost all of their games. In the case of the France game they had blown their opposition away after 20 minutes.
Jonny May crosses the line to get England off to a dream start in Dublin ?
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 2, 2019
If England do this again at the Principality then this could spell real trouble for Wales. An early score for England could negate the partisan crowd and make the trip a lot less hostile. However should the opposite happen, England will find themselves on the back foot.
This does not mean that Wales have to score early to win necessarily. Ideally they just need to prevent England scoring by potentially slowing the game down. They need to look for territory early door and frustrate England. Preventing England from gaining an early foothold in the game is a real key to Wales’ success this weekend. Thus the first 10 minutes could be crucial.
Win the Kicking/Aerial Battle
So much of England’s recent success has come thanks to the boot. They outplayed Sexton and Murray in Dublin and they dominated the French back three at Twickenham. Farrell, Youngs and co have been imperious at finding grass so far this Six Nations making it all the more important that Wales match them in this area.
There are still question marks over Elliot Daly at fullback so his showdown with Liam Williams will be pivotal in the match. Robbie Henshaw really struggled against England so Williams needs to stand up under the high ball and in covering the back field. If England gain ascendancy here Wales will face a real uphill battle.
Kicking battles are always key to big games but this weekend it will be even more pivotal. England rest so much importance on their kicking so if Wales can match them or shade them in this area then it could well be their day.
Match England off the Bench and for Fitness
Much has been made of Eddie Jones’ brutal training regime. However it now begins to be reaping the rewards for his side. They pulled away from Ireland in Dublin and kept their intensity for 80 minutes again France. To stand a chance this weekend Wales must lay everything out there to get the win.
Equally, man for man England probably have the stronger bench options. This means Wales’ replacements need to step up and perform the match their English counterparts. Games so often swing thanks to the impact of the bench so Gatland needs to be extremely shrewd in his selections.
This match is so likely to go down the wire and could well be decided in the final few minutes. This makes the fitness of the starter and in impact of the replacements vital. Wales have closed out a number of close games recently so their fitness and bench are clearly strong but they will be tested to the limit this weekend.
Concluding Thoughts: WALvENG
No one is pretending that either side is likely to run away with this one. Both sides will be emotionally ready and at their best for this one. This means it is likely to go down to a bounce of the ball or a moment of magic, as it did in this fixture two years ago. England are probably slight favourites but if Wales do all of the above then they are in with a real shout.
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