The build-up to this game has been relatively low key – perhaps because it’s August, the middle of the holiday season and international rugby is not usually on the agenda.
Or perhaps some people think that the result is not particularly important, given it’s just a warm-up game and it’s the player performances that people will be watching more closely.
However, over and above the years of fierce rugby rivalry, there is a strong chance that these two teams will meet in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final, and it seems to me there’s a lot to lose for England given that the match is at Twickenham.
England are expected to win at home, and if that does indeed transpire, it’s unlikely to have any major psychological effect over Wales – but if they lose, they can play down the significance as much as they like, yet it would be a major boost for the Welsh.
This is somewhat offset by the team selection, with Warren Gatland naming what looks like a first-choice lineup, whilst Eddie Jones seems to be giving a chance to those pushing for squad selection.
After all of Eddie’s early chat about developing depth and arriving at the World Cup with 600 caps in the team, the fact that there are two debutants on trial at this stage is quite astounding. The backline looks pretty shaky to me, with George Ford at 10 and Piers Francis alongside Henry Slade in midfield, up against the established Welsh trio of Gareth Anscombe, Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies.
England’s pack looks strong as usual, although somehow we’ve gone from naming two or thee 6s in the back row to naming two 7s in the form of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, with Billy Vunipola providing the ballast at the back.
I think if England are to win the World Cup, they need to play to their strengths and dominate up front as they did against Ireland in Dublin. With a powerful defence and a solid forward platform, the personnel out wide becomes less important, and I’d like to see England laying down a marker in terms of how they are going to play. It doesn’t have to be imaginative to win the World Cup and they don’t have to be reticent about giving opposing teams any clues – they just need to be effective and powerful.
I’m not too confident in this prediction, but I’m always an optimist.
England by 4