An enthralling first weekend to the 2017 RBS Six Nations saw Scotland upset some people’s favourites; Ireland and we saw a resurgent France show some of the old Toulousesque power and running game to nearly overcome the 2016 Grand Slam winners. What was clear was that the form book going into the tournament was still being written and from the matches played in London and Rome, here’s how Wales can beat England in Cardiff this weekend.
Rob Evans and Thomas Francis should start on Saturday. Francis v Marler will be a proper Premiership showdown and a chance for Francis to show his power against the English loose-head having missed the meeting between Exeter & Harlequins earlier in the season. When coming on against the Azzuri last weekend, both Francis & Evans added a surety to the scrum which will be of paramount importance from the start on Saturday.
Wales should also try and ruffle the feathers of the English captain. It should be a tactic to get under his skin at every set piece or breakdown in the hope of one of his famous ‘red mist’ incidents which might see Wales with a man advantage for a period of time.
2. Contact Area
With England not having a recognized seven in their line-up and with Wales possessing two, the importance of Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric imposing themselves over the ball cannot be underestimated. Warburton proved last week that with the shackles of captaincy removed, he can roam and stalk the breakdowns, hitting them with ferocity and latching on to secure regular turnover ball.
Equally England will want to assert the ball carrying ability of the likely trio of Haskell, Hughes and Wood and so the Welsh defense needs to be ready to stop them from getting any momentum. In Moriarty, Wales possess their very own ball carrying ability and he will need to be ready to put in a big shift with his teammates looking to secure the quick ball needed to unleash the back line.
3. Aerial Battle
With Liam Williams showing some uncharacteristic frailty under the high ball in Rome, don’t be surprised to see a few Gary Owen’s coming his way early on with a chasing pack bearing down on him. Tactically, England have three weapons in their arsenal with Ford, Farrell and Daly all able to place the men in white into good field position. If Sam Davies is selected ahead of Dan Biggar – as many think he will – then maybe his stronger running game will be a surprise to England who have been used to a Dan Biggar-style aerial battle over the last few years.
In short, it may not be necessary for Wales to win the aerial battle but actually avoid it as much as possible.
We have seen over the last 12 months that the true strength of this England team is their ability to empty their bench in order to win a game. Without the introduction of Haskell, Care & Te’o on Saturday, they may well have lost that match and you don’t win a series away in Australia without having strength in depth to call on.
I believe this is the right game for Wales to bring Thomas Young on to the bench. He will know and has played against most of the players on the opposition regularly and therefore is in the ideal position to exploit their weaknesses after fifty to sixty minutes of play.
Steff Evans is another who must be used in order to bring an element of surprise to Wales’ attack. As a debutant, the opposition will not have seen a great deal of him and this could give the men in red a vital advantage as Evans possesses that X-factor so needed in the final quarter of the match.
Who knows, maybe the introduction of Samson Lee to try and rile his old friend Joe Marler into a disciplinary lapse may also help the cause?!!??
How Wales Can Beat England – Raise the Roof
One thing is for sure, this will be a hugely physical encounter and who knows – they may even agree on whether to keep the roof open or closed! Either way, the atmosphere will be electric and may just provide us with the eventual winners of the tournament.
2017 RBS Six Nations
Wales v England, The Principality Stadium, Cardiff Kick-off 16.50
Main Photo Credit