With Covid-19 threatening to delay the final result of the 6 Nations and England hoping for a good showing from the Scots against France, England host Wales in arguably the greatest rivalry of the championship.
For Wales unfortunately, a win here would be too little too late in terms of the title. However it doesn’t take much for the Welsh to get up for a contest at Twickenham, and, with Wayne Pivac still looking for his first notable win in the new role, the stage is set for a big contest.
Both teams have names coming back into the squad from injury. For Wales, Dan Biggar is passed fit despite a scare over his knee, Josh Navidi surprisingly forces Faletau onto the bench and Liam Williams finishes off a very experienced and capable back three, already consisting of George North and Leigh Halfpenny.
England recall Anthony Watson also giving England their first choice trio at the back, however a lot of emphasis has been put on Eddie Jones looking to play Watson at fullback, so, it’s perhaps a little surprising to see Elliot Daly once again occupying the 15 shirt. Mark Wilson also comes in to replace the injured Sam Underhill.
There’s a case to be made that Ellis Genge deserves a start over Joe Marler after several dominant performances off the bench, although he may not mind too much as he seems to be revelling in opening the ‘already loosened jars’ handed to him by his experienced team-mate.
A real theme of England’s line ups over the campaign has been in naming 6 forwards out of the 8 subs possible. This is made possible by the assortment of backs able to play in multiple positions, as well as the strength in depth of the forwards.
By selecting so many replacement forwards, the big men can treat the game more like a sprint than a marathon as England can refresh the majority of their pack.
England will look to put pressure on Dan Biggar. There may be some concerns in the Welsh camp that he is not fully fit following his injury last time out, and I suspect a few Courtney Lawes torpedoes will be coming his way, not to mention Tuilagi finding his way over to his defensive channel.
Liam Williams is a player you don’t usually want to kick too. The pinball wizard loves to bounce his way back up the pitch – however, after a long absence, England may look to test him aerially.
Up front the arm wrestle is likely to be won by England; they have looked stronger in the scrum and have also been able to better establish their power game in matches. This isn’t so much through huge ball-carrying performances, rather good defensive showings. They are led only by France in the stats for dominant tackles for the tournament.
England look to be back into the swing of things, after a faltering performance against France and a game against Scotland which was defined by the conditions. The last round at Twickenham was just what the doctor ordered to get fans encouraged again.
Prediction time. It’s always hard to pick a winner when Wales come up against England. However, for once I feel I can say with some confidence that England will get the win here. Pivac is yet to put his stamp on this Welsh side and England, after a slow start have got the engine purring again.
The mood in the England camp seems to be a more positive one and rather than playing for a championship, Wales are playing for a bit of pride. I think it would take a brave welsh fan to be backing a win for the boys in red this time out.
By Ed Francis