Six Nations 2016: England vs Wales Prediction

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England against Wales is a game that always stokes the fans’ emotions like few others, but what has gone before this weekend’s instalment of this fierce rivalry makes it all the tastier. Once Wales had beaten England on home turf at the World Cup – and especially after the hosts were subsequently knocked out – this weekend’s revenge mission has been ringed in the diary.

A changing of the guard behind the scenes does dampen that sense of revenge a bit – that was very much Lancaster’s England; this is Jones’s. The start of the Australian’s tenure has been widely regarded as a success; a win against the old enemy from across the Severn would make his approval almost universal.

The events in the tournament so far could scarcely have set this up better. Barring a surprised upturn in form from France, this can be regarded as a title decider. Neither side has set the world alight but both have quietly impressed in their ability to get the job done in an efficient manner – and you sense that it will be whoever continues that trend and makes the fewer mistakes this weekend, that will emerge the winner.

ENGLAND

For the first time, Eddie Jones names an unchanged starting XV with the team that did the job against Ireland trusted to do the same against Wales. Eight of them started in that fateful World Cup game, but crucially, the most important combinations have been shaken up.

Owen Farrell and George Ford’s play-making partnership will look to allow England to get on the outside of a powerful but sometimes narrow Welsh team – Jonathan Joseph, who began a sparkling run of form with an audacious try in this game last year, will look to benefit.

Mike Brown’s 15 shirt is under threat, and he must find a way of linking up with Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell more often when he counters, rather than putting his head down and carrying every time. The wingers have looked dangerous on occasion, but could do with more chance to show it.

In the pack Joe Marler and Dan Cole will look to lay the foundation for the men behind them – Marler’s battle with Samson Lee is particularly intriguing. Saracens duo Maro Itoje and George Kruis will bring work ethic and raw power to the tight exchanges, while the quality of England’s attacking platform will depend largely on whether Wales can find a way to somehow stop Billy Vunipola’s dominance of the gainline when he carries.

Player to watch: James Haskell

Haskell is no-one’s idea of a traditional openside flanker, but his role has been key to establishing England’s miserly defence this Six Nations. From the right side of the scrum and the back of the lineout, he has been able to shoot out into midfield and halt attacking runners behind the gainline. With Jamie Roberts coming his way this weekend, he will have to be right at the top of his game.

WALES

Wales were widely lambasted for their narrow performance against France, but a win here – which would likely set them up for another post-World Cup Six Nations title – and that would quickly be forgotten. And besides, they are the product – not the cause – of a tournament that places a high premium on winning at all costs.

That being said, there have certainly been times in recent weeks when key Welsh figures have failed to execute the basics properly. Jamie Roberts will be used as a battering ram as usual, and that is fine provided those around him with a wider remit can get it right – Jonathan Davies, for example, has been guilty of kicking away good attacking possession too frequently this tournament.

In the pack Sam Warburton will be looking to exert some influence over the breakdown, but he will only be able to do so if the rest of the pack can equal or better the rucking work of the likes of Kruis and Haskell – two players that have been very successful in that regard so far.

The set piece will of course be a fierce battle, and while the scrum is too close to call, the lineout is an area Wales must get right. They have been hugely accurate in that regard so far, but Scott Baldwin did have his wobbles in the World Cup win over England – they will be unlikely to get away with that again this time round.

Player to watch: Taulupe Faletau

Faletau does not possess the raw power of opposite man and childhood friend Billy Vunipola, but that is fine because he is not used in the same sense (you could argue that Jamie Roberts is actually the man closest to Vunipola’s role in the Wales team). Faletau’s value lies in his intelligence with ball in hand – he has good feet and beautifully soft hands, as we saw in this encounter last year when he drew two men to him before sending Rhys Webb over with a delightful offload.

PREDICTION

It is unlikely to be an especially pretty game, and whichever side wins the battle of the gainline will likely emerge as the winner. There has been much talk about the scrum this week, and there will certainly be plenty of focus on how Craig Joubert – returning to Twickenham for the first time since officiating that World Cup game – but in reality the set piece battle is likely to be pretty even.

It will come down to who makes fewer errors at the crucial times, and one thing England will certainly have to cut down on is their penalty count – Dan Biggar will be all too happy to repeat his World Cup kicking heroics otherwise.

While Eddie Jones has not reinvented the wheel with England, he has prepared his team to go out and beat whatever is in front of them thus far. With home advantage behind them, England must be slight favourites to win this one – and allay some of that World Cup pain. England by 3.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

42 thoughts on “Six Nations 2016: England vs Wales Prediction

  1. Sorry to spoil this but I can’t see it being close with EJ as England’s manager. England to run riot and win by between 12-20. I just can’t see Wales defence holding here and I think the pressure may well get to them.

    1. And than you woke up! What are you on?

      EJ’s had a checkered career to say the least & he’s hardly out of his English nappies yet!

      ‘Talk’ about ‘talking’ yrself up. You take the bikkie fella. Have you forgotten the WC so soon? And this team of yrs is ‘hardly an out with the old & in with the new’ is it?

      Might just come back to bite you in the backside fella.

  2. Well at least that worrying run of pundits predicting a Welsh win has dried up. No idea what they’ve been watching. Something big needs to change for Wales to win this one. And Wales never change.

  3. Personally i’m bricking it. England have the better attacking backs but are very likely to give away too many penalties at the breakdown.

    Front five – Evens
    Backrow – adv Wales
    Half Backs – Evens
    Centres – Evens
    Outside Backs – adv England

  4. Heart says Wales but my head says England. On the back of Wales performance against France unless we have a plan B I cannot see us scoring apart from Dan “The Boot”. England will be really up for it at HQ and will want to make sure they set up the final game against France next week going for the Slam.

  5. Every time we play Wales in always nervous. I knew in my gut they would win at the world cup. This time however no nerves at all. In going England by 15 plus. Wales have been well off form.

  6. New coach bounce, home advantage, busting to get one back after the world cup loss (though when they do it’ll feel nothing like compensation for that). Have to go with England – can’t see big differences on the pitch but think these off pitch things will make the difference. England by more than 1 try diff.

  7. Getting more nervous about this by the way. I worry about our penalty count if lose out at the breakdown again. Haskell/Robshaw need a huge game, and Itoje/Kruis need to be even better than last week in that regard.

    Really hope we do it, but I’m starting to think Wales by 3.

  8. I think the most important person on the pitch will be Joubert. His interpretation and officiating at the breakdown, use of the TMO, and his control over the discipline of each team will decide how the game is played, and which team can adjust to suit. Seeing as Wales very rarely change their gameplan or style, I think England will win.

    As you said EJ has prepared his team to cope with the differences in the opposition faced so far, and I think he will use the bench to his and England’s advantage. The difference in the benches are obvious. The Wales bench is filled with players who will play how Wales play, and they won’t change the nature of the team too much. England’s bench is filled with players who will add different dimensions to England’s style and should create more scoring opportunities.

  9. Alas I think England has quietly flattered to deceive… Some encouraging aspects but our penalty count is just too high. And we won’t survive two yellows against Wales for certain. Also breakdown is (as ever) still an issue. Haskell has done his role of smashing tackles and clearing rucks very well, but up against the Lydiate/Warburton combination (chop tackle and then attack the ball on the ground) I think we will be exposed a little at the breakdown. Could have done with some more pace in the back row, none of Haskell, Robshaw or Vunipola could be described as rapid. Definitely think there was an argument to start one of Itoje or Clifford in there.

    Fluency in attack is still lacking – Ford looks a little lost still with ball in hand and Brown keeps sticking his head down and charging into contact. We are not capitalising on scoring opportunities – three or four tries went begging against Ireland.

    No, Wales have hardly been brilliant either but they get better with each game and I think they always take their game to another level against England…

    It hurts, but I am saying Wales by 6

    1. Is Itoje particularly fast? If you want a fast 6 Croft is your man, had a fantastic game against Exeter. But I don’t think Itoje is particularly faster than Haskell or Robshaw.

      1. I definitely think he is faster than Haskell and Robshaw – he is not a Croft (who outpaces wingers on his day) or even a Tipuric, but is surprisingly quick for such a big guy

        Clifford is probably the quickest backrow player we have had apart from Croft

    2. Henry

      Forgot… FYI, QBE Indicator backs an England win by 26 – 21 if I recall correctly.. & they mostly get it right.

  10. No idea, but not more than a score in it. Is there a more statistically even contest in international sport?

  11. Total squeaky bum time, just don’t trust the England players to keep the indiscipline under wraps (premonitions of Farrell going in no arms on Roberts…or Haskell tripping him up…or Brown stamping on someone’s face…), and as others have commented, Biggar will punish any penalties, and even a “narrow” Wales attack would relish running at 14 men. I also don’t buy the “Wales will never change” mentality – for all his perceived one-dimensionality, Gatland is no fool and no doubt more eager than ever to beat England (having EJ in charge may even be greater motivation!). Roberts has probably be practicing off-loads all week. That said, if England’s defense can keep up what it has been doing, we manage to play most of the game near half-way or in Wales’ half, and the subs come on to a more open game, we have a chance.

    1. I’d agree, and I think the perception that Gatland will stubbornly stick to his gameplan with no variation or nuance for England’s strengths and weaknesses is misguided. Whether that’s identified as Roberts offloading, wingers running off the 10 or even missing Roberts out and getting Davies to unleash the back three more, I’d be very surprised if Wales weren’t even a little adventurous. Obviously he’ll test it out early on, and if he gets some joy he’ll go for it again, but there will be some variation.

      With regards to penalties, I’d expect to see England play next to nothing in their half, certainly in the first 40, and try to take Biggar out of range. England’s kickchase has been very good, and I expect England to try to turn it into a weapon to force turnovers and penalties deep in Welsh territory.

    2. Claire

      Have you heard of toilet paper?

      Er, no not for yr ah, ‘squeaky bum’, but for use in stemming the blood from ‘Brown(‘s) stamping on someone’s face’!

  12. God only knows which way this one will fall.

    EJ’s plan to date seems to be to wear teams out in the first 50 and then up the pace for the last 30, using the bench according to the demands of the game (rather than by rote a la Lancaster)

    Will this work against Wales? Well their general fitness is better than any team we’ve played so far and they have their own quick bench players in Tipuric and Webb

    In England’s favour is that every player on the bench is capable of upping the pace and of making a difference once on. I don’t think Wales can say the same with their bench

    If its still tight after 50, this will be all about the subs and I think England have the edge here.

    As for that first 50, I think it will swing on the following factors:

    1. Joubert – is he going to be super-careful and pedantic after his RWC performance?
    2. England’s penalty rate – which may depend on 1.
    3. Who is making ground – Roberts or Vunipola?
    4. Are Warburton and Lydiate causing problems at the breakdown or are they being nullified?

    I can see Wales’ fitness being good enough to cope with the England bench and I can see Roberts causing problems with Farrell’s dodgy tackling.

    Hate to say it but Wales by 3-5 points for me

    1. Eddie Jones

      New Zealand is indeed a ‘small country’, about the same size as the UK in fact (altho the UK actually has MORE sheep!).

      Nevertheless, NZ was hardly ‘destroyed’ in the WC, so why would Wales necessarily ‘be destroyed’ by a team which it helped eject from its own WC group?

      I have to confess though, I’m unsure if NZ is bigger than Japan ‘Fast’ Eddie.

  13. Firstly I expect Wales to play a lot better than they have, they always raise their game, so England will have to as well. However for the factors I’ve mentioned before (home advantage, revenge, competent coach, the odds of Wales winning at Twickenham twice on the bounce etc) I think England will win. I’ve also bee surprised by how confident the Welsh players and coaches have been in the press; “We have the edge”, “Twickenham holds no fears etc”, could they be a tad over confident, maybe even complacent?

    I think if Wales win, it will be a tight win, but an England win could go either way, if England click/ get a rub of the green they could win big. In summary I have no idea, but I’m strangely confident of an England win.

  14. This will be a tight game and could be the making of a new and even more exciting English era of rugby. Beat the Welsh and beat them well, and we could see something exciting over the coming years. There are some very talented players coming through and coming back. Still would like to see Armitage at 6 or 7 to really improve things another notch.

    1. Reading these comments what stands out is England’s ability to play in different styles, in the same phases of play, depending on who is watching.

      Wales – universally acknowledged as plodders, boshers, etc. I’m fine with that. Excellent article in the Indie (I think) this week about “the 90s fans would have wished to have been so lucky…”. As Jamie says, it says as much about the way you have to play to win this tourney as it does about the Welsh themselves.

      England though, to different people who have watched the same matches, different Eng fans even, are either Barry John level creatives, a few sticky hands away from lighting up NH rugby, or similar plodders who can’t string enough passes together to really create the result that exciting backplay against poor teams tends to – big scores, lots of tries, etc. It’s a conundrum. I read the stuff about their creativity but I genuinely have not seen it in 3 games – but I know that this opinion will be discounted for a “well, they’re better than Wales” riposte so I’m not sure what I’m achieving by saying it, I just thought it was interesting that even Eng fans can’t agree if they are excellent or not.

      1. I think England have been creating opportunities through billys gainline bashes followed by quick ball to the backs but once getting themselves into a promising positions they either allow themselves to get isolated and either turned over/penalised or poor passing slows the move down or gives away possession.
        Wales have played a similar style using Roberts as their battering ram but have not been able to go as wide on second phase due to slower ball.

        We definitely are not excellent but if we can cut out the penalties and poor passes we could score quite a few more. However I can’t see that happening tomorrow.

        We do however top the tries scored chart by a decent margin

      2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder Brighty!

        I certainly do not think that England have been lighting up this drab 6n, nor do I think they are up there with the classic 70s Welsh backs (or even the classic IMO noughties English backs), but I have seen glimpses of “promise” and a feeling that they are progressing each match. This progression may only be baby steps, but having been though 8 years or more of seeing England put one step forward only to then go two steps back, even these marginal gains have got me giddy with excitement.

        I do think those predicting a Welsh win, do appear to underestimate how difficult it is to win at Twickenham for away team, and whilst Wales did beat us in the World cup, I think it is fair to say that England bottled that as much as Wales won it. Clearly in the WC the pressure got to the coaching team, and this surely permeated into the minds of the players. Whilst our discipline is still a worry, I haven’t seen too may brainless/ tear what little hair I have left, moments in this 6n, I’d even go as far to say that some of the decisions have been a bit harsh.

        1. Aye, my florid descriptions were intentionally a bit tongue in cheek for effect – there are only a few isolated mentalists on both sides thankfully talking about each team as if they are fantastic.

          For me personally I can happily live with the “boring Wales” tag – especially as I used it as a defence myself, against England fans, through most of the 90s. I’ve watched Wales be crap for far more of my life than I’ve watched them be winners, so more boring years accompanied with trophies is still fine by me, no doubt at some point I will want progression and will even, shudder, consider the whole “let’s lose this one to develop a style” but I’m not there yet.

          I stand by my prediction of an Eng win. It just does not feel like we are going to go up there and repeat the WC heroics. Eng want it too much, they have a new coach, new optimism, less fear in their play. We’re not quite yet clicking, we’re relying a little too much on our defence so far, so in a tight game I think we’ll get edged out. No doubt there is a good chance that by halftime I could be wishing it was still a tight game. It feels like a strange buildup so could be a strange match.

          1. Why do you think Wales are not clicking? I confess I did expect more from Wales this championship as IMO they had the best World Cup out of all the 6n, they’ve got their key injured players back and have the best in terms of continuity and experience. I guess Wales should take it as a compliment that people expect more of them.

            Back when there was all that speculation over Gatland and Edwards leaving to coach England, I speculated at the time as to whether a freshening up of the coaching team could be a positive. 8 years is a heck of a long time for an international coach, who have all stayed in the same roles (I recall Hansen/ Henry and co changing hats after 07 to keep things fresh). Could it be that the set up is a bit stale?

            Of course I am going to look like a prize chump if you blow us away on Saturday now that I’ve suggested that!!

            1. I think it could well be a case of clicking – and some circumstances. We did, and I know views differ on this, much like they do on England’s style – try and play more expansively against Ireland. What went against us was a) we tried it against the champs at their home ground b) we tried it with rusty players c) it didn’t quite work immediately so we reverted to type in order to avoid losing the game. So since then we’ve tried it less because it doesn’t win the games – taking the view of losing in the short term in order to flourish a style in the long term just doesn’t work and I can’t think of any examples of teams genuinely doing it. That’s what dev sides are for, not the main side in the main comps.

              So if it’s just a case of clicking, of those kinks being ironed out, then we could be nearly there but again part of the problem is – do we need to “click”? Could we beat England by smashing them to bits at the breakdown and in midfield? Quite possibly. So the risk/reward isn’t there during the 6 nations. What comes next needs to take care of itself – right now we’ll just have to live with winning but jibes about style/SH losses while, potentially, England lose but tell everyone they’re developing and moving forward. The PR battle is already won by England, despite the result on Saturday. England have a nadir to climb up from so it’ll always look better than before – we don’t. We have a settled side, decent recent record and mostly a team of young players who will be around for a good few years.

              I would personally take a win and the slights on playing style on Saturday but plenty in Wales would rather we “developed”, whatever that genuinely means.

              I think the main coach we have to change is Howley – he’s the attack coach. Nothing wrong with our defence our our overall squad management, but some extra attacking sense would be lovely.

              1. I don’t disagree with anything you say here Brighty (is that a first?). I don’t think development and winning has to be an either/ or scenario. As ever I think its about finding balance, between introducing newer/ exciting players into an established side, giving you the opportunity to win, without being so myopic that you only ever think about the next result. Brian Ashton as head coach was perhaps a bit too into “development”, and Andy Robinson too myopic, to the point that England really regressed under him. SCW capped a lot of players in his tenure but it seemed more seamless then?

                I like what Jones is doing with England. A lot of fans complained that his initial team was too much like Lancaster, but he wanted the win and is slowly bringing in the yoof players. I’m not sure he quite has the get out you suggest. A loss at the weekend will be a massive blow.

                With Wales, and I promise I’m not trying to be provocative, Gats does take some persuading to change tack. It took him forever to ditch Priestland and get Biggar in, and I do question the selection of Cuthbert. I also wonder (sacrilegious though this may be) whether Wales would fare better in the attacking stakes with Scott Williams and JD2, and whether Doc Roberts stifles the ambition (in a similar way to England and Manu)? Players like Amos and Morgan looked so exciting at the world cup, and didn’t let you down. Could Gats or Howley be a bit more adventurous, without compromising their competitiveness? I think so, but then it is much easier for outside fans like me to make these comments, who have no skin in the game. I quite understand why fans like yourself are enjoying the wins and saying to hell with the rest of us.

                Unless its all a cunning plan! Maybe they are saving the all court game for England and catch us by surprise.

  15. I cannot see this game being won by a margin of greater than 6 points. Both sides have shown that they can score tries. Things that will come into play are how many silly penalties does Cole give away trying to make up for the fact that England don’t have a 7, Brown by hanging onto the ball after being tackled. Not starting with Charetist, Curtberts defencisve fau pax. Heart as always says Wales, brain is just giving me a headache ……………

  16. England will target Biggar in a similar way to Sexton as he must have injury concerns & without the blockers that the Irish deployed so well England’s performance in midfield will be improved. My big worry is the service from Youngs, I thought he was very poor against Ireland & put Ford in all sorts of trouble, a repeat will see Ford getting smashed time and again. It will come down to who wants it the most & after the RWC I think that will be England but a very close game.

  17. the confidence is coming back and the tails are up , after all beating a second string ireland {luckily} , italy and scotland , great achievement , and it’s only Wales tomorrow , no problem …… as they are missing their best two players in hapenny and scott williams,….gonna be a breeze !

  18. if IF england win the scrummagin battle and can exploit cuthbert {come back hapenny , we need liam on the wing}then i think england can win by 7-11 pts, if wales can win 45% of scrums then it will be very close and biggar to win it with a dg -3pts, cant see either side winning by more than 16, thats a comfortable margin

  19. Dros Gymru’n gwlad, O! Dad dyrchafwn gri,
    Y winllan wen a roed i’n gofal ni;
    D’amddiffyn cryf a’i cadwo’n ffyddlon byth,
    A boed i’r gwir a’r glân gael ynddi nyth;
    Er mwyn dy Fab a’i prynodd iddo’i hun,
    O! crea hi yn Gymru ar dy lun.

  20. If England can cut the penalties!
    If the refereeing is of a professional standard
    And if England’s forwards can be quick enough about the pitch……..
    England by 6

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