2018 Six Nations: England v Wales Preview

Players attempt to score a try

England will be looking for another full five-point haul when they host the Welsh on Saturday 10 February. 

With Ben Youngs’ campaign-ending injury, defending champions England have had a hammer blow delivered to their chances of claiming a hattrick of titles. This week’s dual with the Welsh is shaping up to be a pivotal fixture in the 2018 tournament and offers Eddie Jones’ England side one of their sternest tests to date; even more so following Warren Gatland’s side’s performance against Scotland.

England v Wales | Saturday 10 February | Twickenham | 18:45

To Win (80 Mins)
England 2/11 | Draw 35/1 | Wales 7/2
Handicap
England (-11.5) 9/10 | Wales (+11.5) 9/10 


England
Jones won’t beat around the bush in his assessment of the impact Youngs’ injury will have on his team. The 74-cap scrumhalf has been a mainstay in England’s starting XV for years and his being on the side-lines for what is expected to be four-months will cost his team in the equanimity and tactical kicking departments. Danny Care may offer a much more offensive, aggressive style, but he is a vastly inferior player to the Leicester Tiger’s number nine.

England’s outing in Rome was solid if unspectacular, with their 46-15 victory nothing too special. The Welsh, suffering an injury crisis themselves, will offer a different challenge entirely, however, and proved in their 34-7 thrashing of Scotland that they are more capable than perhaps many thought.

That said, the hosts will get the win if they stick to their structures. Scotland’s loose game was exploited magnificently by Wales on the weekend, who made the most of a number of opposition errors to come away victorious. Their physicality should overpower the Dragons and enable them to record their sixth win over them in seven matches.

Wales
Well, who would ever want to be a sports writer? Wales’ annihilation of Scotland at the Principality made an absolute mockery of my pre-match prediction and I can honestly say that my tail doesn’t seem to be emerging from between my legs anytime soon. Wales’ efficiency and ruthlessness never gave their opponents a chance and, on the basis of that game, may just be championship-contending material after all. So much for injuries impacting performance.

Wales haven’t beaten the English since the 2015 World Cup and will have to put in a similar shift as last week if they are to have any chance of causing an upset. The way in which Wales’ front-liners deal with the likes of Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje will have a direct bearing on their success, with England’s bullish physicality proving their undoing in games past.

Shutting down Anthony Watson and Jonny May out wide will be also vital if the Welsh are to win their opening two Six Nations matches for the first time since 2012.

Verdict: England 2/11
As good as Wales were last week – and they were bloody good – they will be hard pressed to better an English side that has just about mastered the uncanny Kiwi way of getting over the line.

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net

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