Our rugby scribe gives his verdict on Saturday’s crunch Six Nations clash between Wales and England.
This game could have a massive bearing on where the Six Nations title ends up. Wales got their campaign off to a decent if not perfect start beating Italy but failing to secure a four-try bonus. While England, were not without their flaws as they scraped to a 19-16 victory over the French at Twickenham.
A win for either side here would significantly strengthen their title chances while a loss for Wales and failure to secure a bonus point would really hamper their chances of remaining in the title hunt.
Wales v England | Saturday 11 February | Principality Stadium | 18:50
To Win (80 Mins)
Wales 7/4 | Draw 20/1 | England 9/20
Wales | England
Last week’s 33-7 score line flattered the Dragons somewhat. While the likes of George North, Sam Warburton and Sam Davies all put in solid shifts, it was far from the complete team performance that coach Rob Howley was hoping to witness.
I’m going to put it out there early; Wales were absolutely horrendous in the first half. While some praise must go to the Italians for their courageous first half defensive efforts, it was the ‘Dragons impotent attack, rather than the Italians efforts in the tackle, that saw the Welsh head into the break trailing 7-3. And while they did manage to put 30 unanswered points on the board in the second stanza, Rob Howley will still be a slightly worried man.
The Welsh interim coach will be particularly worried about the injury sustained by fly-half Dan Biggar, who spent the second half of the game watching from the bench. While his replacement Sam Davies performed admirably, Biggar’s ability to take the ball to the line will be sorely missed against England.
It was far from a complete performance but England managed to get the job done against a fired-up French side at Twickenham. Having gone into the final 10 minutes trailing 16-12, it looked as though England’s unbeaten record was about to come to an end. Substitute centre Ben Teo was having none of it, however, as the Worcester Warriors man crashed over from close range to send his side into a one point lead. The lead was extended to three points when Owen Farrell stepped up to convert Teo’s try.
That final ten minutes may have a big say in Eddie Jones’ team selection for the clash against Wales. George Ford, who started the game at fly-half, was strangely anonymous, while starting nine Ben Youngs was rather sloppy with his distribution.
Jones may opt to change things up on the back of those subpar showings. Youngs could well find himself on the bench after his replacement Danny Care put in a composed performance during the final quarter of last week’s match. George Ford could also find himself relegated to the pine with Owen Farell shifting to his preferred fly-half role and Ben Teo coming into the inside-centre berth.
The Stats That Matter
The stats for this one make for extremely interesting reading. England have won three of the last four games between the two sides by a margin of five points or less. The other fixture was a prep game for their tour of Australia and they took on an extremely understrength Welsh outfit on that occasion, so it’s not really worth reading into.
The English ran out 21-16 victors when the sides last met in Wales back in 2015 while the Dragons won their previous home fixture against their neighbours 30-3 (2013).
These games tend to see combined scorelines in the mid to high forties with the last two fixtures seeing over 45 points scored.
Verdict: Wales (+5.5) 9/10
As I mentioned earlier, these games tend to be won by narrow margins. And I certainly can’t see Saturday’s fixture ending in a blowout. The smart option here is to back Wales on the +5.5 at 9/10.