AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: Wales v England

Good things come to those who wait. It is a common phrase in both sport and life, and one that particularly applies to both Welsh and English rugby fans. The two sides are unbeaten in the 6 Nations so far, and whilst we have only had two fixtures, there is already the feeling that this could go a long way to deciding the Championship.

Wales have managed to take two wins from their first two games to now make it a run of 11 games without defeat, and victory would give them the longest winning streak in Welsh rugby history.

They will need to improve on the majority of those performances, especially the last two, but there are good reasons for thinking that they shall. Their comeback win against France was a case of getting the job done, when they managed no possession against a lumbering French side in the opening 40 minutes before taking advantage of a French implosion after the break.

They were not as impressive as many had hoped against Italy, but Gatland’s choice to change the whole team – an understandable one – didn’t help their chances of cohesion and it’s perhaps not a surprise that the Italians were able to take advantage of that for large parts of the game.

Gatland returns to what is very much a first choice side for them – indeed the majority of the team that started against France will take to the field – so we ought to see an improvement although it will almost certainly be needed.

England’s 30-22 win against Ireland was a stunningly complete rugby performance, with outstanding contributions from – amongst others – the Vunipola brothers, Tom Curry, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly and Johnny May.

They did not have to reach the same standards to beat a mess of a France side, but in dismantling their visitors they showed no mercy with a hat-trick for May alongside scores for Henry Slade and Owen Farrell along with a penalty try.

There hasn’t been a single thing England have done wrong, but a big key to their high scoring has been the use of tactical kicking. Seven of their ten tries have come through moves which involved a tactical attacking kick, including all four of Johnny May’s so far, and only two backline players have not put in a tactical kick leading to a try.

Against a French side with four centres in the backline and a winger at fullback, this strategy tore the opposition apart, but Wales ought to make things much harder for them here. Liam Williams is a fine defensive fullback and along with George North, gives Wales two powerful options to deal with kicks in behind, even if Josh Adams is slightly less experienced.

To have a chance of success, Wales will need to match England physically in a way that Ireland simply could not. The Welsh backrow – featuring Josh Navidi, Ross Moriarty and Justin Tipuric – is on paper, well equipped to do that, and Gareth Anscombe is probably the right chance to try and find any holes in what has been a pretty rock solid English defence so far.

It also remains to be seen what England lost in the shape of Mako Vunipola and Maro Itoje, although the performance of George Kruis against France suggests that England will not lose a huge amount in the set piece with Itoje’s departure, and perhaps the most important piece of team news is that Billy Vunipola, one of England’s two key ball carriers, will start.

Guinness 6 Nations
Wales v England
February 23rd, 2019
Kick-off: 4:45pm
Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

(Maximum 10 matches)
2018: England won 12-6 in London
2017: England won 21-16 in Cardiff
2016: England won 27-13 in London
2016: England won 25-21 in London
2015: Wales won 28-25 in London
2015: England won 21-16 in Cardiff
2014: England won 29-18 in London
2013: Wales won 30-3 in Cardiff
2012: Wales won 19-12 in London
2011: Wales won 19-9 in Cardiff

There is every reason to expect improvement from Wales as they grow into the tournament and perhaps this is the right time for them to face England. That said, the market has already taken such improvement into account and on the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, England are very much the rightful favourites and more than capable of covering a handicap of 3 points, given the availability of their wrecking ball carriers and multiple strategies available to them should they have less success with their tactical kicking then they’ve had so far.


Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans

Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Watkin

England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ben Moon

Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Joe Cokanasiga

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK ENGLAND -3 5 pts at 8/11 with

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 242.96 points
(excluding Premier League ante-post and Six Nations ante-post)