Key Clash Preview: Wales v England

Millennium Stadium

Date: Saturday 13th August 2011
Kick-off: 14:30 (BST)
Venue: Millennium Stadium
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)


Last Saturday may have ended in an encouraging fashion, but Warren Gatland’s team will be under no illusions. Wales were for a considerable period second best. Only when the game broke up, and England had built up a strong lead, did the men in red gain a significant foothold. For Wales to feel confident heading to New Zealand they will have to produce in their final two warm-up matches, starting tomorrow, performances that are built on far more solid foundations. Deficiencies in the scrum and at the breakdown need to be desperately improved upon.


Martin Johnson will be disappointed that his side failed to fully press home the advantage at Twickenham. Having established a strong platform to win comfortably, England appeared to crumble somewhat, and surrender the ascendancy to their opponents. The closing twenty minutes or so aside, there were certainly more positives than negatives for England fans to take out of the match, as their team sought to exercise the demons of five months ago in Dublin. Like their Welsh opponents the England management appear to have decided against giving fringe squad players a chance to impress, suggesting tomorrow is very much about testing and moulding different combinations.

What to expect

It is hard to avoid the influence fitness levels had upon last week’s game. England looked the visibly more tired of the two sides as the game wore on, perhaps contributing to Wales finishing the stronger. What bearing conditioning will have on tomorrow’s repeat remains to be seen. Fitness aside, both sides would have learnt a lot from their previous encounter. England will seek to dominate up front again, while Wales will try and break up the structure of the game. However, personnel changes in the England would appear tailored to a more expansive game plan.

All eyes on:

Reality television showman Gavin Henson will once again be the centre of attention, albeit this time in international rugby. With so little rugby in the last three years for a variety of reasons, the undoubted talent the 29-year-old possesses is starting to become a distant memory. It really does seem do or die time for his aspirations of appearing at a World Cup for the first time.

Much debate on The Rugby Blog has raged this week over the non-selection of Chris Robshaw, with the less fancied Hendrie Fourie preferred instead. The openside, has yet to prove himself at test level yet. With Lewis Moody’s World Cup chances lying in the balance due to injury, the pressure is really on for Fourie to make the step up for his adopted country.

Head-to-Head: Craig Mitchell v Alex Corbisiero

Mitchell will be desperate to claw back some credibility after being out-scrummaged by Corbisiero last week. Wales can ill-afford the tussle between these two to be as one sided again, especially given Warren Gatland’s preference to wrap Adam Jones up in cotton wool.


On paper England look a far more settled side, with far too many question marks lingering over the form of the Welsh line up. Despite Martin Johnson’s selection policy essentially giving Wales a week’s head start, England will have too much power for Wales to contend with again, albeit the creative ability of the home side will allow them to keep in touch. England by 7

by Paul French

Get Mark Cueto’s thoughts on the match here, courtesy of Nick Heath from Rugby Media


4 thoughts on “Key Clash Preview: Wales v England

  1. This is going to be a very close match but winning for England is paramount going into the tournament. They face a tough fixture next week in Dublin and will not want to go there on the back of a defeat at The Millenium.

    Toby Flood clearly needs to respond to JW’s performance last week. He has always got a safe bail out ball with Tindall and Hape next to him but he is going to have to take on the responsibility to spark some creativity. Aside from Foden and Ashton, the England back line will not spark fear into the Welsh backline which looks a lot more threatening, even including Mr Henson. It will be a clash of two styles, England’s grunt vs Welsh expansion and I fancy, on this occasion, Wales might come out on top

  2. England will look to enforce their front line power in this one. The addition of Ashton, Foden and Hape will bring some flair and running creativity that appeared to be lacking (with the exception of Armitage) for the majority of the previous weekend. On the back of yet another Wilkinson vintage performance, you can bet to see an invigorated Flood turn up in Cardiff, safe in the knowledge that a quality perfomance should provide him with the Number 10 jersey for the World Cup.

    Wales on the other hand will be straining at the leash to show what they can do in front of their home support before they jet off to New Zealand. The close game at Twickenham and the fact that they scored more tries than England despite the narrow loss, will have proven to the Welsh that they can beat England in 2011. Wales will run, run and run at England, and alluding to the rumours that Wales are fitter than England, you might expect gaps to start appearing in the back line as the game wears on. But I have my doubts about the lack of English fitness playing a key part, seeing as Martin Johnson has only got two players starting from the previous game.

    My prediction, England will go in at half time 10 points ahead after the forwards dominate. In the second half I expect Wales to fight back and score two tries. But ultimately England will try and slow the ball down, making the occasional break towards the Welsh Twenty-Two, eventually scoring a try and kicking a few penalties to secure a win by a margin of 7 points plus.

  3. To me, the inclusion of Tindall and Hape suggests that England are more concerned with playing a defensive game and not allowing gaps to appear – which happened far too often in the game last week, than an attacking game. Tindall is not our best 13 on offer, but he commands the backs defensive line well – just like Moody at 7. Not our best, but leads the entire team well. I know Tindall hasn’t played 12 for a few years now, but i’d still have liked to see a Tindall and Tuilagi partnership given ago – good blend of defensive and attacking abilities + youth and experience.

    I think there’s healthy competition for all positions in the England team coming into this world cup (apart from inside centre), but i doubt Johnno will want to do any last minute changing to his preferred team this close to the start of the tournament. My biggest gripe is that Robshaw hasn’t been given a chance to show his skills and leadership qualities – think he’d make a fantastic England captain.

  4. It’s hard to work out Gatland’s approach to these games he says Wales must win but presumably he could see the pressure on the Welsh scrum last week yet Adam Jones is fit but doesn’t even appear on the bench .I can see the sense of not risking players (poor old Morgan Stoddard ) but Jones has hardly played a game since last December so 20 mins or so this week and a full run out against Argentina next week would blow away the cob-webs at least.

    James Hook whilst competent at full-back must be somewhat peeved as he now seems to be third choice outside half and the perma tanned one is picked ahead of him at his second favourite position of 12 .

    While Priestland did well last week my concern again would be that his selection at outside half was of course not planned which suggests a suck it and see approach from the Welsh coaches rather than any overall strategy.

    I don’t necessarily agree with the comment that England relaxed last week and Wales came back into it because of this..In fact England were a two inch higher floated pass away (from Falateau that is) from being 14-3 down and I’ve seen similar efforts to Warburtons disallowed try being given especially in Southern Hemisphere games were the attacking team gets the benefit of the doubt.

    However based on Gatland’s selection heart says Wales head says England as I think the English team looks stronger this week than last and their bench certainly does.

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