Wales travel to Twickenham this weekend for a match which will effectively decide the Six Nations a week early.
With England chasing a Grand Slam and Wales still unbeaten following their opening day draw with Ireland, both teams know that whoever wins this clash will have all but both hands on the trophy heading into the final weekend.
With so much at stake, both Eddie Jones and Warren Gatland know the importance of getting the gameplan right.
But, with Jones’ England the slight favourites with home advantage, what must Wales do to record another famous victory at HQ and head into Super Saturday in pole position?
Take their opportunities
The problem for Wales so far in this championship has been taking try-scoring opportunities when they have come their way.
Whether or not you believe Wales are trying to play a more expansive game, there have been several moments when chances have been spurned through a lack of composure.
The most obvious example was in the last match against France when Gareth Davies kicked through, ignoring an substantial overlap, following a scintilating break.
But, it’s not just the line breaks that Wales are failing to capitalise on.
Attack the 10/12 channel
The more worrying aspect of the attacking game is how Wales have yet to really take advantage of space in the 13 channel and beyond.
Wales have been looking to go wide on a number of occasions in the tournament – but their depth has meant they have failed to commit defenders.
In the picture above, Wales are happy to keep their depth and move laterally, allowing the Irish defence to drift across and easily cover the threat.
Throughout the tournament, England’s tackling in midfield has been questionable and if Wales can get them to drift, then strike-runner such as George North and Jamie Roberts running straight at the heart of the defence could cause problems for George Ford and Owen Farrell
Ideally, what they need to, especially against England, is cut back on angles and straighten up.
Wales have only really utilised this once effectively during the tournament – George North’s try against Scotland a perfect example of how to lull a defence into drifting, only to attack on the fringes.
Play on the gainline
Another problem for Wales with their depth is how predictable it makes Jamie Roberts’ game.
So often, the Harlequins centre has been standing so deep that it is blatant that he is going to pass it – as seen below.
In the picture above , he fails to commits defenders and an overlap is spurned.
Conversely, when he has been standing nearer to the gainline, defenders have been able to read what he is going to do.
What Wales must do is create options around Roberts, rather than let him sit deep and look for them.
They must have him always playing on the gainline, either with ball in hand as a battering ram, dragging in defenders as a dummy runner or, and the one which could be most successful, commiting defenders before putting others into space with a well-timed pass.
Gareth Thomas said recently that Wales should be using Roberts for more than just a ball-carrier and that his passing is better than most people think.
All of this is fine, but his passing must be done in the face of an oncoming defender, not ten yards behind the gainline like in the example above.
Against France, Roberts had a chance to execute this early on.
As you can see, the French fringe defence expects Alun Wyn Jones to just truck it up – not expecting a pass to fly-half Dan Biggar (circled) behind him.
As Wales move the ball wide to Roberts, the French defence is unorganised and centre Maxime Mermoz makes a split-second decision to rush out of the line and take man and ball.
However, the Frenchman does not get their time and, as Roberts recives the ball, he has three men in plenty of space outside.
However, he chooses to step inside and runs into the drifting French defence.
While he didn’t do anything wrong, if this was an New Zealand or Australian move, then those players in space would have been found.
Win the aerial battle
So much of this match is going to come down to who wins the kicking battle.
Both teams have made use of up-and-unders as a form of aerial assault in this year’s tournament.
For Wales, this has been a tactic which has been in use for a while with the likes of Dan Biggar and Liam Williams a constant threat under the high ball, while for England, it is a recent addition to the gameplan.
Wales have the slight edge in this front and will look to isolate George Ford with the high kicks.
But they must avoid loose kicking and chase well otherwise England have talent in the backfield who can return kicks with interest as shown below.
England will look to give these four as much time as possible on the ball by putting pressure on any Welsh clearance kicks.
Throughout the tournament, England have been relentless in closing down space for clearance kickers – as seen below by their persuit of Stuart Hogg.
Hogg wants to kick off his favoured right foot, as shown by the red arrow, but the line speed of the England defence forces him to cut back inside, where he swarmed by more white shirts.
Deal with England’s strike runners
Defensively, Wales will be fairly confident of keeping the English attack quiet following another solid display against France.
But one area where Shaun Edwards will be wary of is the forwards running in tandem with fly-half George Ford.
With quick ball, England will look to use the forwards on Ford’s shoulder in a number of ways to open up the Welsh defence.
In the picture above, Ford has a forward outside, shadowing him as he drifts across to the third defender.
With the Welsh defence watching strike runners such as Jonathan Joseph outside, it allows the forward to run straight off Ford and easily get over the gainline, allowing quick ball which led to a try on this occasion.
They did it again to great effect against Italy recently, using two forwards to keep the defence guessing.
Ford fixes the first defender while the outside Italian defender wrongly commits to Joe Launchbury – leaving hooker Jamie George space on the outside.
A simple miss pass puts him through, with second playmaker Owen Farrell now making his way into shot from deep.
A simple offload from George is enough to put Farrell under the posts with ease.
Wales will be need to be wary of England using this tactic – with their forwards, particuarly the Vunipola brothers, more than adept of shifting the focus of attack to the backs with a quick pass.