Read everything you need to know ahead of this weekends Six Nations clash at Twickenham, featuring the greatest rivaly in rugby.
This weekend we see the greatest rivalry in the rugby world return in all its glory. England vs Wales at Twickenham is the kind of event that has fans counting down the days for the next battle the moment it finishes.
England head into the second round straight off the back of a convincing victory over the Italians, having successfully executed multiple set-piece plays while discovering the attacking revelation that is Sam Simmonds. They do however go into the matchup without first-choice scrum-half, Ben Youngs, who has been ruled out for four months with a ruptured medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his knee.
Wales travel to Twickenham buoyant from their slaughter of the Scots on home turf. The Scarlets centered team went to business displaying their attacking continuity whilst demonstrating the ability to shut down a notoriously dangerous Scottish attack. Head coach, Warren Gatland, was forced into the side that saw off Scotland quite so convincingly and will be enjoying the benefits of giving players like Worcester's Josh Adams their chance to impress in the national jersey.
We are going to look ahead at this weekend's clash, all the important insight and analysis you need to know. Whether you use it to anticipate plays and results or simply impress your fellow fans is up to you. With great power comes great responsibility. If anyone asks, that isn't a line from Spiderman.
English wits must be sharp to meet Welsh prowess
If England are to retain their Six Nations for a third successive year, they must be sharp in defence and learn from Scotland's errors.
This new free-scoring Welsh side is a far different prospect England have faced in recent years. The inclusion of ten Scarlets players in the starting XV has changed the way they attack. Aside from the obvious danger of scrum-half Gareth Davies, fly-half Rhys Patchell and the strike runners outside them, the Welsh pack have proved their ability to mix in with the best in open play. From props to openside flankers, Wales' ability to offload and run support lines was All Blacks-esque last week and something that England must be sharp to. Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Alun-Wyn Jones, Cory Hill and Aaron Shingler all proved to be as handy as any other when it comes to unstructured off the cuff play.
Shingler, unlike any other England have faced before
Shingler, in particular, is a different prospect to anyone England have faced before under head coach Eddie Jones. The lanky blindside mixes the height and range of a second row with the mobility and passing skills of a centre. The Scarlets man is closer to Maro Itoje than any other England forward but exceeds Itoje's ability in link play. If England are not keen to the threat of Shingler, he could prove a key cog in an English downfall.
See Shingler break the Scottish defence, perfectly timing the draw and pass to Cory Hill
The offloading of Shingler and his comrades in the Welsh pack will be a challenge for captain Dylan Hartley and his men and must be shut down at any chance. The benefit of having three second rows in your starting side allows for an extra pair of lengthy reaches able to wrap up this threat. During the Summer, we saw Owen Farrell work particularly hard to block the offloading options of All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams, this will be a huge asset to England's defence in midfield.
Both sides' loosehead props, Mako Vunipola and Rob Evans, will play significant roles in their sides offloading and distribution game. Keep an eye on the big boys around the park putting in some delicate touches that will leave amateur level fly-halves feeling inadequate.
New boy Cory Hill must be shackled
In a similar theme to Shingler, Dragons' lock Cory Hill is one England must pay appropriate attention to. The British and Irish Lions tourist showed he has an impeccable passing game, not just able to execute his skills, but outsmart his opponents in defence.
Shingler dummies Scotland's Byron McGuigan to set up Hadleigh Parkes on the outside.
Fortunately, Jonathan Joseph is excellent at wrapping his particularly long arms into the path of potential offloads and passes and will undoubtedly look to shut down the risk of Hill around the outside centre channel, as we saw last weekend in Cardiff.
Jonathan Joseph's defence key to success
While we are on the subject of Bath centre Jonathan Joseph, we must address the importance he will play in the 13 channel, if selected as we anticipate. Against Italy, Ben Te'o was caught out multiple times in defence, allowing Italian attackers to force a two on one against English wings Anthony Watson and Jonny May.
Wales' attack has proved to be a significant step up from an Italian one and cannot be afforded the same chances. While Joseph is smaller in stature compared to Te'o, his defensive nous at outside centre is the best in the world. The footwork and pace the 26-year-old brings to the table will undoubtedly prove priceless against the new brand of Welsh attack or 'rugby chaos'.
While Wales may well manage to outsmart the English defensive line and make a few breaks in the outside channels, the pace of Joseph to track back and nip a potential conceded try in the bud will be vital and simply cannot be matched by Te'o.
Huw Jones wins turnover with assistance of captain John Barclay
Above we see Scotland centre Huw Jones cutting a Welsh attack dead with a well-executed jackle turnover. This piece of defensive gold was an almost carbon copy of fellow centre Chris Harris' turnover earlier in the match and proved invaluable to cutting those particular threats dead in their tracks. This is a technique neither Farrell or Joseph can match and they must find their own way of stopping the Welsh backline. Instead of being able to turn the ball over, an English defender must slow the ball down while their defensive line refill.
Both of these points must take an equal emphasis in importance and be fleet of foot to re-establish the defensive system is absolutely vital.
George Ford will also be tested in defence this weekend, but not just through bulky forwards attempting to make their way past the diminutive fly-half. Patchell stands at 6ft3" and weighs in at 92kg. The former Cardiff Blues halfback showed multiple times last weekend that he is not afraid to use his sizeable frame to run from ten and could well catch Ford out. Further to this, both wings Steff Evans and Adams look likely to be utilised as strike runners through Ford's channel and could prove deadly for the English.
England must constrict and strangle pace of game
If England are to truly shut down the Welsh, they must recreate the pain of last year's defeat to the hands of the Irish that saw grand slam hopes crushed into the turf. The Irish were able to dictate the pace of the game by stealing lineouts, pestering the breakdown and offering a defensive line that cut momentum short and frustrated the English.
Jones' side must hope to learn from their defeat and apply the lessons to this weekend's clash. The Welsh have proven that the introduction of quite so many Scarlets players means any sniff of a gap will be a genuine chance to go the length of the field.
With this shutdown of the Welsh attack, fullback Mike Brown will yet again be the glue that holds England's defence together. Much like his opposite number, Leigh Halfpenny, Brown will be the man responsible for covering the backfield with supremacy should the Welsh decide to go over the top of a rushing English defence. Should he prove wise to the attacking kicks of Patchell, his side may well be safe for another day.
Wales face far tougher opposition
For all of Wales' obvious attributes, last weekend they faced an out of sorts Scotland side unable to recreate the continuity they found in the Autumn Internationals. Halfback duo Ali Price and Finn Russell had a bad day at the office and made multiple errors in the face of a quick pressing Welsh defence. While the home side must be commended for their shutdown and the resulting forced errors, it is unlikely they will have the same success this weekend.
Once Price left the field on the 50th minute in place of former Scotland captain Grieg Laidlaw, the frequency of Welsh scores and breaks was reduced significantly, turning the game slightly tighter and more attritional.
Richard Wigglesworth and Owen Farrell, in particular, are very difficult to fluster, make few errors and have bags of experience. Danny Care and George Ford are also no pushovers and are far more experienced than Price and Russell at the top level.
The Welsh will not find quite as many attacking chances off the back of their opposition's errors this weekend and will have their own ability to create scores tested.
Scottish handling errors let Welsh in
At halftime last Saturday, Scotland had conceded eight handling errors and then went on to rack the number up to twelve by the 55th minute. We saw attacking move after attacking move off the back of a Welsh scrum. Wales showed a varied playbook with plenty of strike runners thrown into the mix while Adams was utilised well to try and pounce on Bryon McGuigan drawing himself too narrow in defence.
Steff Evans targets the 10 channel off the back of an attacking scrum
Josh Adams looks to take cross field kick following Bryon McGuigan finding himself narrow
No matter what, we are going to have a truly entertaining matchup this weekend and could well be one for the history books. If either side can manage to fluster their opponents, the battle of the mental fortitudes could well take the day.
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