Wales v England February 23rd 2019. Principality Stadium 16.45.
This should be a match to savour. Both teams have two wins from two going into the third round of games. Based on form in this years Six Nations so far, England are favourites. They also have won their last two fixtures against Wales in the Millenium Stadium.
Both teams have been looking to improve their squad depth recently, with one eye firmly on the upcoming World Cup.
England will have to get over the loss of Mako Vunipola, one of their stand out performers so far. Out wide, their backs have plenty of gas and have looked very dangerous. I don’t think many people saw the manner of England’s victory against Ireland coming and the dominance which they exerted over the Irish. In the following fixture, England then went on to put France to the sword impressively.
Wales haven’t quite been so good. They earnt a confidence-boosting comeback victory against France and then followed that up with a fairly routine win against Italy.
In their last match, Wales did this whilst resting some key men and experimenting in a couple of positions.
There are several interesting aspects to this game. Many are questioning if this is the Six Nations title decider and will it have any bearing on the World Cup in Japan later this year? I think it is slightly too soon to talk about title deciders. Only Italy are truly out of it with Scotland and France needing a victory in the next round of games to get themselves back in the mix.
France seem to have lost their way in recent times. Ireland, on the other hand, haven’t become a bad side overnight after their chastening opening game loss. They should have a part to play in what’s to come.
As far as the World Cup in eight months time is concerned, these games do have significance but it could be overstated. What intrigues me in the lead up to this game is what kind of team will England be if they are tested? Can Wales provide that kind of test?
Wales are on a good run of form themselves. They have 11 wins on the bounce and they have experience within their side. If Wales put some points on the board and with the home crowd behind them, could that unsettle England? Are there any fragilities within the English team that might be exposed?
Wales themselves have their own vulnerabilities. They need to improve in the lineout and have the Welsh coaches decided who their number 10 should be? That question is never too far away in Welsh rugby circles. No such problems for England with their captain Owen Farrell firmly established at outside half and an able deputy in George Ford at the ready.
Putting any personal allegiances aside, I’m going for a high scoring game in which England narrowly win.