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