RWC 2019 Warm-ups: England v Wales Prediction

Billy Vunipola

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

60 thoughts on “RWC 2019 Warm-ups: England v Wales Prediction

  1. I’m going for England here as have a point to prove so whilst I think it will be tight, this will swing it for me.
    Haven’t commented on this site for a while but have been reading and digesting threads…..slightly away from this match but here we go:

    EJ’s selections I have given up commenting on and trying to understand. It is what it is….do I see England winning the RWC, on what I have seen the past 12 months no. I would expect them to clear the group and a SF spot is within reach. I think all will agree they have played some superb rugby past 12 months and when on the front foot with pace and power many teams have struggled to contain them. However as we have seen it is near on impossible to sustain such pace in a game for 80+ mins, let alone across a tournament.

    Without sounding cliche, I think all of the top 7 or 8 teams can beat each other ‘on their day’…however you cannot expect to have seven ‘on your day’ performances in a row in a RWC. Its those teams that can have a slightly below par performance, or be outplayed for large parts of a game BUT still somehow win that win WCs. For me only NZ, Wales and SA have shown this in the past 12 months so (pre warm ups) they would be where I stick my betting coupons.

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    1. you don’t need 7 ‘on your day’ performances as should beat USA and Tonga on an off day but even 5 ‘on your day’ is too much to ask and in some cases it probably required a not their day performance from the opposition too

    2. Struggling to recall when England played ‘superb rugby’. Ireland perhaps? Maybe & it was away. Also, does ‘on their day’ mean lucky?

      1. Seriously DonP?? Not even going to try to explain my view on that comment. As for on their day meaning lucky. Absolutely not. Were you away with the fairies when you responded to this as usually your comments have some sense!

        1. So, define ‘superb rugby’ then DM & in which specific games were England superb? Not v Wales, Scotland or after 35 v NZ I’ll wager. OTIH, maybe they’ll play that way this afternoon?

          1. To me it is when a team is playing fluid, high pace, winning at the breakdown, winning collisons generally have the other team under the cosh. It doesn’t have to be for an entire game….so for me I would pick v Ireland 6N, First have V scotland and first half v NZ as you have pointed out. So all I am saying is they have showed they can bring it to teams in a big way BUT its not sustainable in their style of play and have shown can blow a gasket and not get to the garage in time to fix it before the final whistle blows.

            1. Ok & up to a point DM. However, I’d add the ability to change plan when appropriate & adapt to changing circs. Having a back line which can be creative, esp when not on the fr foot. Sustaining it for 80 is also, in part @ least, what the reserves in the garage are for. G’luck later.

  2. Can’t see such an experimental side (why why why?!?!) winning against a proper Test team in form.

    4 uncapped players
    2 playmaker centres next to Ford
    Two opensides plus one on the bench
    New combinations throughout
    New vice-captains (what did Billy do wrong)
    As ever, the scrum half debacle

    Good luck to them of course, they’ll really need it.

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    1. What did Billy do wrong?

      Support a homophobic and deeply detestable human being in Israel Folau………

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      1. Ok, I’ll concede on that one, I was overlooking that charming little episode. Good decision, with that in mind.

        Still, interesting choices in Heinz and Underhill. On the surface someone like Launchbury would have seemed obvious.

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        1. Why? because if Eddie wants to take a look at fringe players I would much prefer he does it now than in 2-3 weeks time.

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          1. Perhaps Eddie really is fooling us all Leon, by looking @ fringe players 2-3 YRS ahead of the NEXT WC!?

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    2. Jk I read your very well written post and my mind can’t get my head around Jones’ selection just before a World Cup.Crazy bizarre incomprehensible-like he’s floundering about hoping something might work.
      Is he feeling the pressure and lost the ability to think rationally?However as I posted elsewhere if we beat Wales I am completely wrong and will
      apologise but I fear I won’t need to

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      1. The thing is, if we beat Wales with this team it’s because Wales didn’t show up. In extremely rare circumstances does a full strength (or close enough) Grand Slam winning Wales lose to an experimental, half-baked side like this even at Twikkers. If both teams play to their best, Wales win.

        That being the case i don’t think you would owe Eddie an apology if England win, he’s still playing fast and loose with the national team. In no way does this look like a coherent approach to the tournament he’s been aiming at for four years. As someone else pointed out, his coaches are either similarly in cuckoo land or not allowed to challenge him.

        A strong showing at the World Cup on the back of all this would be different – then all of us doubters would have to hold our hands up and say well done Eddie.

        By strong showing I mean a win or a close defeat to NZ, Ireland, Wales or SA in the knockouts. Anything else isn’t good enough.

        1. Jones is an autocrat who dictates.Coaches let alone players get sat on if they challenge.
          A very intense prickly character underneath the bonhomie.

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        2. Half-baked, fast and loose, no way.. a coherent approach, cuckoo land, isn’t good enough. Sure you’re not commenting on that bloke in The White House who said that they can’t have people with mental health problems owning guns JK!

  3. i can see reason in playing an experimental side at home, get them experience with the crowd behind them, play the more experienced sides away and get used to crowds that may not be with you.

    That being said I cannot see England winning, Wales by 6.

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  4. Half that team, replacements included, says to me ‘This is your chance to prove whether you should be in the squad’. I expect to see a much stronger ‘1st team’ next week.

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    1. True but these are warm up matches, not try outs – he’s had four years to work this out. For so much of it to be new is very worrying.

      Is he really going to decide at this stage that two opensides is the way forward, for example? Or that Francis was the missing piece of the midfield?

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      1. I agree: warm-ups not try outs and as everyone says, lack of preparation in last 4 years.

        Trying to argue the other side:
        This is almost the first opportunity Eddie has had for a Curry/Underhill combo due to injuries

        Ludlum is uncapped because this is his breakthrough season, and even at 6N it would have felt too early, but on the basis of the whole season (he has been excellent) he deserves a shot.
        Same about McConnochie.

        Heinz has been brilliant this season showing game control, skill, speed etc. I can see why he is in the squad. Robson had a freak injury ruling him out. Spencer… yeah, I am running out of options here. No idea why Spencer or Robson didn’t get more game time to develop. Even though I’m a quins fan, I can understand why he dropped Care. Care has been brilliant, and in great form. But I have never felt confident in his game control for England, and he did get opportunities.

        Francis has only 4 caps because he hasn’t earned the right to more. God knows why he is in the squad still.

        Marchant… oh sod this

        What the … has Eddie been doing? Marchant has been excellent for a couple of seasons. And JJ’s injury was a great opportunity to try him out. I haven’t even got onto Cowan Dickie and Singleton

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        1. I see what you mean about only having the opportunity now to try certain things/players (though I think Curry and Underhill have played together once or twice – maybe just off the bench).

          However I think there’s got to be a cut off point for experimentation, probably the 6N. If there hasn’t been a chance to try something by now, that ship has sailed – at this stage it should be tinkering at most.

          Personal opinion – Ludlam has had a very good season but there are maybe half a dozen other flankers who also did that I would have picked ahead of him.

          1. My thoughts on Ludlam is that he is part of the squad to give him experience and develop him for 2023 and i don’t begrudge him 15 minutes off the bench in our first warm up to show what he can do same can be said for Singleton.

            1. Leon, shouldn’t focus be on THIS WC? By 23, who knows & there may be a new Headmaster by then anyway?

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        2. The Scrum half situation is what is is.
          should Eddie have blooded Spencer/Heinz before now absolutely, but with Robson out and Care in the wilderness we will likely see Heinz this week and Spencer next. On the plus side he isn’t starting Youngs and giving the backup scrum half 5 minutes off the bench this time round

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        3. Wouldn’t ever wish an injury on a player so alternatively I am hoping Francis has an absolute howler and gets the shepherds crook 15 minutes in (like Burrell did in Australia) and we never see him in an England squad again

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  5. Totally disagree with paragraphs 3 and 4 of the article

    it seems to me, given the team selected, that there is nothing for England to lose but there is a heck of a lot for Wales to lose. If England ‘B’ beat Wales ‘A’ the psychological impact on both teams would be huge

  6. Not convinced that a full England team would necessarily beat this Welsh team so have definitely gone for a Wales win. Hope to be proven wrong!

    1. I went for an England win because I thought that the Welsh pack wasn’t strong enough. Could have added that England are @ home. However, that was before the English team was announced!

  7. I am suffering from an illusion.Weeks ago I thought Jones said this was a full on full blooded test match against our most disliked opponents and the result was very important.Clearly he is using this as a trial selection to decide which reserves to take to Japan-therefore the result is not of great importance.Wales are coming with an absolute determination to win which I expect them to do and then win again in Cardiff.We then have Ireland who will be thirsting for revenge and they have no fear of Twickers.So we could easily lose the next 3.Jones talks about getting on the plane totally prepared.Lose next 2 or 3 and I doubt the players deep down will genuinely believe we can win the cup.However if England win on Sunday-our untried b team against their a
    I will apologise unreservedly to Eddie on this site.
    I believe the result is of very considerable importance to both teams.
    I think Gats knows what he is doing.The jury is very much out on Jinexy

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    1. Agree with yr 2nd to last para Harlequin. A loss, particularly just before a WC, is a loss. Who on earth would want a loss!? It matters. To those whom state it doesn’t matter if England lose because they’re fielding their B team, it does. It sends the wrong message to WC opponents whom will see it as a lack of planning, a sign of weakness! Why would you want that?!

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  8. This article opines that, to win the WC, England need to play to their strengths by dominating up front & having a powerful defence, as per Ireland. The personnel out wide then become less important. So why didn’t they do this v Wales & Scotland then? Because, away from home, it’s harder. The Welsh pack weren’t dominated & England kicked away, presumably because they didn’t have faith in their less important wide men. V Scotland, the defence wasn’t so powerful. @ some point during the WC, they will be held again. So maybe they will need to have developed some more important wide men pronto, as the egg timer’s nearly done. Also, if there’s an issue with their sustaining it for 80+, they’ll have to have developed some effective finishers as well. That’s what they’re there for.

  9. Its a risky selection but an inevitable one as Jones has decided to announce his squad next week. So it was really just this game that he could try out a few fringe players and maybe make the final couple of decisions.
    It’s late in the day for a new, untried SH, and ditching Te’o for Francis is something that might have been thought about before now. You have to worry that there will be a lack of cohesion in the backs with a new winger, SH and a centre who (i think) is yet to start an international. Asking a lot for us to click up against a highly experienced, competent Welsh side.
    Up front we should be fine. I welcome the selection at flanker, as I think this is something we are likely to see at the WC.
    Away from Twickenham, I think you would have to make Wales clear favourites. Home advantage might help tip the balance towards England.

  10. Great stuff Ed. Picking our two best open sides against fired up opponents in a World cup warm up match. It’s not too much of a stretch that both of them could be injured seriously enough to put their places in jeopardy.
    Add a water weak midfield ( francis???? ) a rookie
    and it looks like a potential lose, lose situation whatever the result.

  11. Some English bloke, ironically wearing an AB shirt, in the pub last night for the SA v Arg match, also oft stated that England had an experimental side out today. Up to a point only though I think. They have only a couple, C-Dickie & Ewells, whom as hopefuls, but the now un-benched Ludlum is the only real bolter. Mostly, the rest are fairly experienced internationals now. Also, that Jones has opted for 2 7’s is a calculated choice & 1 which he can change via Lawes during the game. Dunno why this choice now, @ this late stage, but that’s Jones & another story. Also, in the backs, only Heinz, Francis & McConnochie, particularly the latter 2, can (could) be called ‘experimental’. The rest are mainly seasoned. I know that Slade (repl by JJ, later Teo?) McC (repl by Coka) & Underhill are now out of course. My point is that only 1/3rd of the original selection are, in varying degrees, try outs. My other & main point is that, particularly up front, England should, nevertheless, have sufficient ballast to have @ least nr, or parity here. Are Smith, Francis & Beard going to dominate their counterparts? Is the Welsh back row robust enough? I’m not so sure. Wales have a settled back line & it’s here that England may find more of a challenge, especially in mid field. However, if they can hold up in the pack & not boot injudiciously, it should be a competitive game. Of course Wales will likely be more cohesive & this could carry the day, but I don’t see it as a walk in the park for either side. Of course I’ve been wrong before, so, as usual, we’ll see, but in a revised opinion, Wales by bugger all? Or how about that draw?

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    1. I’m in danger of repeating myself but while only a third of the original selection are new on the scene (that’s still pretty ridiculous at this stage), throw that in with new combinations and styles (two 7s, lightweight playmaker midfield) and I think you’ve got a very experimental team.

      1. I thought only historians repeat? But still mainly experienced.. @ the risk of (this historian?) repeating MYself. Mind you, if England do get trounced John Kirwan, you may be proved right! Dubious accolade though. Fingers xxed.

  12. As a Welshman wales to win especially since they are fielding a top team (still miss halfpenny in my eyes)

    However with that said I’m concerned about the outcome against an experimental side. If England go full strength you can predict the style, tempo and build a game plan. I’m looking at this England side and wondering which player will make the big plays and how certain combinations will play out.

    Still backing wales and to take #1 would be huge (although despite rankings it’s not true #1 until we beat AB)

    1. And NZ can regain it nxt week? If Wales dominate up front, they win. Better back line, although agree about 1/2penny. If not..?

      1. They would, NZ are without a doubt the best team in the world consistently. Its not a matter of replacing them long term (that’s the dream though) but sharing the stage for a week.

        Wales have hovered top5 for a while now (sometimes slipping down for a short space) it’s nice to see they could push it. I enjoy that the NH teams are more prevalent in the top 3 spots compared to previously when it was 3SH teams

        1. Hope so MC, although Stuart Barnes reckons that NZ are in a right old muddle & can kiss off the WC. Perhaps he’s trying to emulate S Jones in being controversial & influential? Anyway see what next Sat brings. Also see if the WR rankings change or not.

  13. So I’ve emerged blinking from a work-imposed hermit-like state expecting to see Eddie’s grand plan being revealed. Everything was going to make sense. All the bizarre selections, the missing game plans. Everything.
    Trouble is, I think someone is having a laugh. I’ve just looked at the team to play Wales at home in one of our few games before the competiton. Vital for momentum. Especially at home and vs a team we may end up playing at some point.
    This team appears to have 2 new caps, two opensides, a 32 year old scrum half with no international experience and 4 players from a Leicester side that were almost relegated.
    Oh and also the inexplicable Piers Francis.
    Can someone please tell me I’m dreaming and wake me up so I can see the real team?

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    1. Sorry pab, it’s all true. Just to add to your misery, Underhill, Mcconnochie and Slade have injured themselves before the bloody game.

    2. Welcome back Pablito. It’s worse than you think. The 32 yr old Heinz is a Kiwi from Middle-earth whose nickname is Bilbo Baggins! Actually not so bad. The new world No.1’s are already falling over. So much for Quinell’s ‘Thank you v much’ to this, HIS accolade, before KO. Wonder if his no off switch blather can turn it round?

      1. Well apparently ML, Ed’s had 4 yrs to take his team to No.4 in the world rankings.. so far & after a home game. Will they still No. 4 after nxt Sat’s away game?

  14. What a difference a game makes. Or does it? @ home, ‘scratch’, or ‘experimental’ England, played with usual intent up front. Perhaps more tellingly, the backs did likewise. All on attack of course. A few wobbles defensively. As suspected, the Welsh fwds, away @ least, lacked some heft. Their scrum & line out were shaky. Will likely be tighter in Wales. Also had too many 1 out runners. Often stopped in their tracks. Few Englishmen had discernibly bad games, though Daly copped it for some misses. The b/row had the edge & BV, Tui made some inroads. The b/line, despite being exposed some by Welsh breaks, mostly held up on defence. So did the whole team. Even looked offside @ times to me. Highlighted or affirmed options with the likes of JJ, Ford, Watson, Ludlum, C-D, Heinz, even the maligned Francis? However, deprived others like McConnochie, Slade, Underhill. Whilst many waxed lyrical after the game, England may yet regret not having a real alt 8 cover for BV, another qual fly1/2, poss f/back. I’ll go with Acee’s 7. Thought England missed a trick though after 1/2 time by going for goal instead of the try. @ that stage they had an opportunity to likely put Wales away IMO, but instead went conservative. This showed LACK of intent. On another cautionary note, what has this 1 match changed after 4 yrs? England have just gone up a place in the rankings, but face Wales on the road nxt up. A must win for them to make real WC inroads. A loss & it’s as they were. So whilst they & fans can enjoy this win, they might be beware of Cardiff!

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