Six Nations 2013 Wales v England: Prediction

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Nobody will admit as much in this exacting era of professional perfectionism, but there was a pretty plausible reason for the dire standard across last weekend that went ignored. Of course drizzle, incoherent officiating and dodgy backline decision-making contributed to a pair of poor matches at Murrayfield and Twickenham, but what loomed on the horizon must have derailed concentration too.

Now, this truly monstrous Anglo-Welsh clash has rolled into plain view. Stuart Lancaster’s intrepid cohort are on the verge of an immensely impressive Grand Slam, while Rob Howley can very conceivably steal the Six Nations championship for himself with a comprehensive win by at least seven points.

If Ireland spoiled the perfect scenario with their tournament-opening win at the Millienium Stadium, this situation is itself nigh on faultless. Cardiff should be poised for a tension-filled treat.

Reasons to back Wales

After Brian O’Driscoll wrecked any hope of a repeat clean-sweep in early February and consigned Wales to eight straight Test defeats, Howley has been forced to heal some severe wounds on the road. Things looked bleak, but between Paris and Edinburgh via Rome, a bloody-minded winning mentality has been re-located. Aside from sparse sparks – mostly from either George North or Dan Biggar – fluency has been tougher to find than triumph. Come Saturday’s Slam-busting mission in front of almighty home support, the latter is all that matters.

Although the entire contest promises to be spine-tingling and highly-charged, its grinding exchanges up front hold the key. A large portion of build-up will rightly centre on the tearaway tag team of Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton, but the man in the middle might be more important. Quietly consistent all competition, Toby Faletau offers something England are deprived of in Ben Morgan’s absence – a ball-carrier from the base of the scrum. Exceptional elsewhere, Tom Wood is not a natural number eight. With platform so pivotal, Wales have a big advantage.

Howley will not be losing too much sleep about anything outside of that. Against Italy on Sunday, England attacked like a side who have now scored a solitary try in three games and were devoid of accuracy or conviction. One glaring overlap-butcher in particular will have embarrassed the normally sharp Alex Goode. In contrast, Wales have not been breached since O’Driscoll shunted over a month ago. What is more, North, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny will not leave the pitch without probing the wider channels where Wesley Fofana, Sean Maitland and Luke McLean have made crippling inroads recently.

Reasons to back England

Lancaster’s most crucial selection call of his tenure so far went well yesterday. Typically pragmatic, the former schoolteacher from Leeds handed starts to Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell at half-back. Tight tussles call for territory and dead-eye precision from the tee, which these two have the shared kicking ability to provide. As game-managers, they are growing and – despite a combined age of just 44 – are sufficiently sanguine to secure away wins. Every bit of the tenaciousness on show at a sodden Aviva Stadium must re-surface, mind.

The sensational return of Tom Croft and Joe Launchbury’s fitness were two other boosts to emerge from Thursday’s press conference at Pennyhill. Ranging, rapid and abrasive, this duo better even the freakish athleticism of Ian Evans. They can cause havoc in the loose just as easily as they offer steadfast options in the lineout. Space will be at a premium early on, especially in a midfield crowded by Jamie Roberts and Manu Tuilagi. However, if Croft and Launchbury latch onto off-loads, England can find another dimension.

With Howley evidently reluctant to burden Warburton with the captaincy before form has wholly returned, Gethin Jenkins assumes leadership of Wales thanks to Ryan Jones’ broken shoulder. Having missed out on Scotland due to a calf complaint, the Toulon loosehead gets his 98th cap from the front-line in every sense. However, Dan Cole might just smell blood. Should Jenkins not be able to match the Leicester man – either in the scrum or as a pilfering presence – Wales’ skipper could quickly become a weakness. In any case, Jones’ punching runs around the fringes and general aura will be sorely missed.

Prediction
A Grand Slam is excruciatingly difficult – more so even than making this call. Fittingly, England’s toughest assignment has come at the death in the most intimidating of environments. They won’t shirk the challenge and may still attain silverware for finishing on top of the table. But, as the vintages between 1999 and 2002 found, the last hurdle will prove too high. Wales by 4.

By Charlie Morgan

Follow Charlie on Twitter: @CharlieFelix

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63 comments on “Six Nations 2013 Wales v England: Prediction

  1. If, as expected, the roof is closed & with dry conditions I would expect that it would suit the Welsh backs more, they are superior runners with more ‘punch’ than the English. England will play like they always do, grinding rugby with the intention of getting penalties for Farrell to knock over. There will also be a tremendous atmoshere which at times would feel like an exrta man to Wales. If Wales can keep the penalty count down & with their defence playing well I would think they will come out on top & very likely with the 7 points to lift the trophy.
    I will be on a plane to Budapest when the match is on :( how the hell am I going to avoid seeeing the result until Tuesday !!!

    • Tuesday? Steve, that is a very long flight to Budapest. Are you flying the long way around?

      Its quicker going east you know ;-)

    • Wales play grinding rugby just as much, if not more so than England. It’s all about a monster defence, pressure, kick chases and kicking the points to Gatland/Howley.

      • Yup, don’t understand where this myth about the welsh backs being amazing runners has come from

          • I would say that the welsh backs are probably superior collectively, but I think that Manu is the single most destructive player on the field

  2. The Welsh back row could be decisive. A person with more time than I have right now should check turnover stats, as I don’t reckon the English back row will have many. In fact, Dan Cole is probably England’s best ‘jackal’.

    Completely different story for Wales. I worry that Tipuric and Warburton will prove too adept at stealing for our back row. Big test for Croft and Robshaw, and indeed Launchbury and Parling. Launchbury will be a big help in this area.

    • As I’m on my lunch break… The England back row (including subs) has made 13 turnovers, the Welsh 7.

      • Ha! Love it! Nice work Geat.

        The fact is that until his last game, warburton has been very off form, and extremely well marshalled at the breakdown. So Wales’ stats have been pretty low, because tipuric has A) been on the bench and B) players target him to run at, so he isn’t available to challenge for the ball.

        England may not be the best team over the ball, but their backrow have been pretty effective counter ruckers. Also I have noticed England using Ireland’s “choke tackle” technique a few times in the past few games. Robshaw used it very effectively against the Italians at least once.

        • Unfortunately, it’s a case of “stats, schmats” – especially when it comes to Wales playing England.

          An example I like to use is in 2007. Before Wales v England:

          England – P4 W3
          Wales – P4 W0

          And after the game?

          England – P5 W3
          Wales – P5 W1

          The before stats ended up being as good as meaningless!

  3. Not sure about the Dan Cole smelling blood point. England have the smallest tight 5 in the championship and Dan Cole has not dominated a single opponent yet, parity (at best) on a couple of occasions and second best on the others. With Jenkins back towards his best and a front row unit that is scrummaging so much better for the inclusion of Hibbard I think we are in for a really tough examination in the scrum.

    Home advantage, better selection, finding form the head says Wales by 7. The heart thinks we’ve been able to dog it out when momentum is against us (e.g. down to 14 against Ireland) and can do it again, sneaking home by 2 ….. I’m going with heart. England by 2

  4. Nice to see it predicted in wales favor, although not by the point margin I want :p

    I’m going for Wales to win the tournament, I want to see a v.big win so the ref don’t get all the credit and it be by 24, but i’m most likely dreaming. I do think it will be a v.convincing win not the “small” margin everyone predicts, so Wales by 17 (I have a very odd feeling they will get a try in the 1st 10minutes & the last 10)

  5. even with the roof closed, the pundits on rugby club last night said they reckon it will be a dog fight, and i am inclined to agree.

    both teams have great goal kickers, and they both know when to take the points on offer. having the roof closed provides further incentive to have a shot, because there is no wind.

    both teams can throw the ball about, but i think that they have players in key positions who are more inclined to kick it. so i would expect to see them playing the corners, and trying to get some phases of play set up in the opposition half.

    i expect wales to target ashton’s wing, and to bombard goode with highballs. and i can see england trucking it up with the forwards then looking to tuilagi to crash through the middle. i also expect england to target phillips, because if they can rattle him it will slow up the welsh ball and put them on the back foot.

    • farrell fell apart under pressure
      after seeing his birth certificate he really is a uless english b*****d lolololol

  6. Win by 4 would leave a lot of of us very conflicted certainly more chuffed than a loss but do you hang about for England to collect the trophy out of good manners or head off down the pub to drink to the win, more of the latter I suspect .

    There should be something to play for right to the death in this one .I’m not tempting any fate by putting figures to it but if Wales do win the Championship then it would be up there with the Slams and Cardiff will be drunk dry .

  7. I imagine the roof will be closed, so it will be interesting to see the two sets of centres have a chance to run at each other. Up front, the Millennium stadium pitch cut up pretty badly in the first game, so the scrums could be a mess, especially with everyone’s favourite Kiwi/Aussie as the ref.

    I agreed with whoever said earlier that they would like the margin of victory to be big enough that no-one can blame the ref, although would obviously want England to win! Hard to call that though, who looks like a good drop-goal candidate?

  8. Wales may want to close the roof as a psychological advantage, but the opposition (England) have to agree to this. If I were in Lancasters’ shoes, I would be tempted to say no, make the game be played in the open elements, and take away a little of the home advantage…

  9. “the tearaway tag team of Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton” – I love the sound of that.

    I can’t call this one. I think of our backrow and can see an edge there, then I sway the other way when I think of Manu against NZ, then back towards Wales when I think of our wings, then back towards England when I think it could come down to penalties (both who gives the most and who’s better at kicking them).

    I’m gonna put myself out of my misery and nail myself to a Wales win by 8. Take the championship with the bonus of stopping the slam. As you said Charlie, this is a momentous game. What a tournament for it to come down to the last game like this … oh, I suppose I should acknowledge that there is that thing in Paris afterwards at some ungodly hour.

  10. Like Brighty (but from the opposite side) I find this too close to call.

    I worry about Englands wide defence, and the scrum. I think that Louis Deacon is a big miss for Dan Cole in the tight – though obviously there are benefits in plenty of other areas.

    Back-row – I go against the grain a little here, and sticking my neck out I think that England can dominate Tipuric from the start. Sure he is quick about the place and good on the ground but England will not let their runners get isolated, and Tuilagi, Barrit and Brown are very quick over the ball at breakdowns. England will use these three as extra flankers when punching holes.

    So ultimately I think it all comes down to which Wigan defence comes out on top, and sadly I think the one in the red corner is showing to be the most watertight at the moment.

  11. Blub I return from Budapest on Tuesday ! think I’m gonna lock myself in my room with the sheets pulled up & her indoors can go sightseeing on her own !!

    • Footnote to self Steve have a look at the rugby Calendar before agreeing to any future weekend jaunts or at least get there in time to track down a Sports Bar ! Bit like a friend of mine whose future spouse arranged their wedding on the day of the Wales England game and who is divorced now no wonder .

  12. I have the same ominous feeling that I had prior to the NZ game – and look how that turned out!

    In all seriousness, the team being put out on Sat is 90% the same as the team that put more points on NZ than anyone else for the last god knows how many years.

    So we know they can win. The question is, which England team will turn up? The one that smashed into the tackles and rucks against NZ and then sliced them open in the backs? Or the one that tamely lost to Australia and scraped a win against Italy

    Whatever Lancaster fed them before the game against the Kiwis, he needs to be shovelling down their throats in massive quantities before Saturday’s game.

  13. I honestly think this one is too close to call. Most likley will come down to a mistake like last year – I just hope it’s Wales’s turn!

    However I have more faith in this Eng tam than the one in 2011. Yes both suffered dips in form – but this team’s mental toughness really impresses me. Not that I wish to keep harping back to the NZ game, but when they blew a 15 point lead I thinkmost of us thought it was game over – but they went on to win. Likewise aginast Ireland when we when down to 14, or when France got the upper hand in the first half. Nobody panicked.

    I havent watched Wales’s matches in full – but have they been under that kind of pressure? From what I saw of the Fra, Ita & Sco matches all the teams showed little attacking ambition?

    • We have had some different kinds of pressure perhaps? 8 losses on the bounce then we go away to France to meet a “wounded” French team. Not many people win there. We won.

      England’s game against Ireland can now be seen, in the light of the subsequent matches of both teams, as 1 of 2 things, probably depending on your allegiance. Either it was a dogged win, away from home, against a formidable foe in bad conditions or it was a patchy scramble of a win where the least worst team won. I know you all now which of those I choose and would further say that if you choose one of those for IrevEng but something different for FravWal then you’re kidding yourself.

      Which is all a roundabout way of saying neither team has shone in this 6 nations, both teams have flaws, Saturday is too difficult to call based on previous matches in this tournament.

      • I would say that both Wal and Eng faced Ire before their injury crisis reached critical, although Sexton’s injury did weaken them.

        But my point above was a genuine question not a dig – I didn’t see the matches in full, but the general concensus was that France’s best attacking display was against us (not that that is saying much).

        For me only the Italy match has been truly disappointing – all the others I thought Eng were well worth the win.

        • Benjit, I didn’t take it as a dig. I think we’re all scrambling around trying to find solid reasons for optimism for our team this weekend but I honestly think that it’s been a 6 nations where each match seems isolated from all of the others. Eng hammered Sco but Ire couldn’t. Ire hammered Wales in 40mins but couldn’t repeat that. Wales let in 3 tries in the first 40mins but not one since. Ita beat Fra well then got schooled by Scotland wheres Eng couldn’t dispense with Ita. All over the place. Why oh why is the game at 5pm tomorrow, my nerves are going to be shot be 3.

          • I hear that… I live in Cardiff and I’m going to the game, but the tension is going to mean I won’t get to enjoy my birthday properly!

          • i think that looking at the bigger picture, there will be cause for optimism either way.

            from and english point of view, we have 11 players who have never been to cardiff before. with such a young side, they have done very well to get this far. obviously i will be extremely annoyed if they blow the GS, and even more so if they chuck away the championship, but to have come into the tournament as favourites and got this far without slipping up (and winning away in dublin for the 1st time in 10 years) is pretty good.

            for wales, they have come back from an 8 game losing streak, which had a loss to samoa in it, to be title contenders for the 6Ns. even if they lose, there is no doubt that they have turned things around. and after if wales lose tomorrow, they will likely lose to the england that turned up against NZ, not the one who struggles past italy.

            all in all, we will always be able to find the positives from this years tournaments. and we have seen some players get their names back in contention for the lions. and a few others have put their hands up recently too, which is nice.

            yes a grand slam doesnt come around too often, so it would be great for england to win. but all this is just a step on the path to 2015 really isnt it?

            also, no matter what happens this saturday, we wont dwell on it for too long, because we will all turn out focus to the lions. a winning series is what we all TRUELY want! i lived in Aus for a few years as a youngster, and a win for the lions down there would make my decade!

          • Simo, I agree with most of what you say but have to argue with “which had a loss to Samoa in it” which I (and correct me if I’m wrong) read as “*even* Samoa” as if that was a real bottom tier loss. I wish some of the other British teams had played Samoa last autumn. It was a brutal game that nearly killed half the Welsh team. Samoa are no longer a soft touch when they’re drilled and want the win, as they showed in RWC11 by pushing Wales very close and also doing well against SA. I also remember them frightening England in a previous WC? Their position in the rankings is as much about lack of games as anything else – it’s not a lack of quality. They have the worlds best scrum half playing for them and a ferocious set of forwards – a lot of whom tear things up in France and England.

          • brighty.

            what i meant by “had a loss to samoa in it” is that, as you pointed out, Samoa do no get the amount of time together (and they have to pull together a team from across the globe) to try and compete. they are doing extremely well for a small nation whose best players end up playing for bigger rugby nations with more money.

            The point i was trying to make was more to do with the fact that Samoa, were A) ranked lower than Wales, B) spend less time together than wales. this means that it would have been the most targeted for a win by wales.

            off the top of my head i do not recall who wales played in the autumn, but i believe one was argentina? who will have benefitted hugely from their time in the quad nations, making them a more formidable team.

            and yes its harsh to say “even samoa” but the fact of the matter is that that is a game wales (who have a pretty sizeable team themselves) should be expecting to win.

            i was trying to pay the welsh a compliment for turning things round! its not often i compliment a welshman! ;) (thats a joke…)

    • Also France were still playing there main attacking threats out of position or on the bench until they played us.

  14. Appears I’ve come back to check the statistics red-faced!

    Perhaps the stats don’t back it up, but the fact remains that Warburton and Tipuric are far more adept at winning turnovers at the breakdown that their English counterparts.

    Stats or no stats, it’s a worry for England.

    • definition of the word FACT: Noun
      A thing that is indisputably the case.
      Information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article.
      definition of the word STATISTIC: Noun
      A fact or piece of data from a study of a large quantity of numerical data: “the statistics show that the crime rate has increased”.
      An event or person regarded as no more than such a piece of data (used to suggest an inappropriately impersonal approach).

      i would say that if the statistics show england’s backrow has more turnovers than their welsh counterparts, then it is pretty much impossible to try and say that the welsh are more adept at winning turnovers and claim that it is a FACT.

      Tom, you were proven wrong on this situation, and evidence was used to do so. just accept it and admit defeat instead of trying to counter argue with an opinion/perception that you claim is a fact.

      • In fairness Tom, Simo is right here. Robshaw currently has more passes, more metres made, more tackles, and more turn overs then either Tipuric or Warburton. And he has two MOTM awards. Kind of makes what you said look a bit silly…

          • Has robshaw missed a minute of this years 6N? Totally without checking any statistics or facts I’d suggest he has completed a lot more game time than either tipuric or warburton . Still can’t doubt robshaws earned his MOTM with some good performances tho

          • Robshaw has played more minutes than both Tipuric and Warburton.

            Anyway, the Welsh back row dominated England’s yesterday, as I thought it might. Lets not let the stats from five matches get in the way of that.

            Ps. Tell anyone that Robshaw is more adept at turnovers than either of the Welsh flankers and they will laugh in your face, to be blunt. It’s not Robshaw’s game.

      • Also add the fact that England have players who win turnovers all over the pitch, it’s not really a worry. Barritt, Farrell, Brown, Cole and Parling are all good at breakdown time.

        • I’m an English supporter btw, so that’s nothing against Robshaw. Just can’t believe my concerns over the breakdown were roundly dismissed!

        • cole is a prop not a flanker or 8
          you cant say its ok he cant scrum but hes good in the loose as an argument to pick him at prop.
          if y ou going to pick him on his loose play the pick him at 6,7 or 8,,
          but 3??
          hes an amatuer kid in a world of men

  15. Whilst there are aspects of the selection and areas of the game I’m worried about, I think we can win through defence and superior workrate.

    With Farrell back in and Croft’s speed and ability to make cover tackles I think there is the chance we can go at the defensive duties with sufficient speed and ferocity to unsettle Wales. Turnovers aren’t just won on the floor, getting ball kicked away because there’s no other option will do just as well.

    If we get the line speed right, tackle in numbers and hit rucks with the intensity we demonstrated against NZ and Scotland I think we can take Wales out of their comfort zone. Whilst the conditioning of Welsh the back row and backs is excellent I’m not 100% convinced by the fitness of the tight 5, e.g. players returning from layoffs/periords of poor form & fitness and players that have had prior fitness issues. I think there is the possiblity to play at a pace that the Welsh tight 5 can’t sustain. If Hibbard and Jones are hands on knees gasping for oxygen they aren’t going to be too much use at the next scrum!

  16. Looking forward to it! I think? Went for Wales by 3 before I started getting all emotional about it. Now think England can scrape a win. I am concerned that most teams in this 6N have had pretty much their best games against us (except Scotland). Is this because we’re English and everyone wants to beat us (or is that me just being arrogant?)? Or is it because actually we’re not as good as I think we are. I have no idea.

    Not convinced that Wales have been under real pressure since the first 40 in Cardiff, and look what happened there so there is hope, but then again we know that Wales have been in the pressure cooker before and come out so maybe not. We’ll know in 24 hours.

  17. we all know wales can do it, we all need to just believe now get 7 points wales, all we need is a break from cuthbert or north and no fullback is stopping them, a exciting game none the less, massive crowds will come i guess,

    • I think Wales will score the only try of the game, but also that England will kick more penalties, so it will be close.

      • As we get closer I’m finding it hard to have a single rational thought about this game. So now I’m going for Wales by ten – I know it’s too much to hope but I pray for an early Wales pull ahead to avoid having a stroke.

        Gutted for the u20s last night but not surprised – the game went to the brawniest as youth rugby often does.

  18. Just had a quick look at the results since Lancaster took over, and the biggest loss was to South Africa by 9 in the second test, followed by Wales by 7.

    For all the criticism of England as an attacking unit (some of it justified), they are a tough nut to crack, and this has been Lancaster’s biggest achievement – I didn’t see the SA game, but in every one I have seen England have been in contention until the last moments of the game.

    To my mind, this says that no one should really be able to predict Wales to win by 10 with any real confidence!

    I am a little mystified by the talk of Wales playing a fast, flowing game which England can’t cope with. Arguably, with the Welsh pack pack up to speed they would be best placed to win by grinding out aroun the fringes with Faletau and Phillips, recycling and bringing the big wings into play on kick and chase.

    England have a slightly lighterweight pack – I think Lancaster has set his stall out to achieve an edge in phase play and at the breakdown, and aiming to achieve a minimum of parity in the scrums using Cole as his lynchpin, but without the heavy grunting second rower like Johnson or Botha. This makes Corbisiero a big loss to me, because with Corisiero and Cole in the front row I think this is doable, with Marler/Vunipola less so.

    Where I have been impressed by England in this 6nations is their relentless hustle and the speed of the defensive line – they suppressed a French pack that came at them all guns blazing, and barring the Italian game I’ve felt as the game went on the England forwards have established a consistent edge. Wales clearly have an excellent frontline pack though, and will be aiming to impose themselves in the same way that France tried to do (and to a degree suceeded). I don’t know if the Welsh bench can maintain that, though.

    To set up my stall, I say that the game starts out brutal and tense, with Wales going into the half with an edge and a lead, but in the second half England establish more of a platform and, in the end, the game goes to England, score 21-19.

    Looking forward to it, and I’ve been so impressed by Wales dragging themselves out of a deep hole I think whoever wins the championship will have deserved it.

    • From my point atleast, backing Wales to win by 10+ isn’t because I think they are going to be a hugely dominative side during the game. I just think they have to go into the game thinking big.

      There is no point in wales going in to play for penalties at 3points, unless they have complete control and penalties aren’t going there way. A win by 1point isn’t worth a damn at the end of the tournament, so they need to kick for 5yd lineouts to go for tries, once they have the first try they can switch back and go for penalties.

      I can’t remember the game I think it was against NZ when about 4-5minutes into the game they got a penalty, NZ all start going to catch from the posts and instead wales pointed to the touchline and went for corner (all be it they missed it lol) but that showed a level of aggression & determination rarely seen in the 6n and I expect it today.

      I just see england going down the “play safe get the penalties going” and wales going down the “we got nothing to lose” and since I think wales will win the game, I can’t go for a small margin. Although i’d except anything 7 & over as a win, I personally would see a 5pt win as a loss.

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