The 2019 Six Nations will close on Super Saturday with three teams vying for the title. Wales and Ireland contests are normally very tight and Cardiff this Saturday will be no exception. At Twickenham, England will be champing at the bit to gain revenge after last year’s defeat in Scotland.
Sandwiched between these two matches is an equally significant game between France and Italy. Two struggling teams with a huge amount to play for. In France’s case, pride in the jumper and in Italy’s case just getting a win. So, who will win the title? Logic says Wales, just, with home advantage at a raucous Millennium Stadium. That said England will be ready if Wales do slip up against an Ireland outfit that is clicking into gear. England are also rather looking forward to the arrival of the Scots at Twickenham.
Cokanasiga the only surprise change
As expected Mark Wilson and Henry Slade come back in place of Brad Shields and Ben Te’o. Deservedly so given how good Slade and Wilson have been this year. Ben Moon swaps places with Ellis Genge, which slightly blunts the combination that Genge could have with Kyle Sinckler. The thinking here is that Ben Moon can help give England a platform for the likes of Genge to explode off the bench in the final quarter.
The surprise surely is Joe Cokanasiga not even being in the match day squad. That is not to take anything away from Jack Nowell who is a superb winger but Cokanasiga’s unique skill sets should have at least put him on the bench. We hope that Cokanasiga will not be banished because his star quality would light up Japan in a few months time.
Scotland trying to put a lid on last year
So often over the years England have been brandished as arrogant and full of themselves. Especially after they win. No doubt, this has been the case on certain occasions and in certain eras. However, it has been interesting to listen to the likes of Finn Russell and Ryan Wilson play down last year’s fracas on and off the pitch at Murrayfield. Regardless of what people think either side of the border, it has been a long time since we have seen an England team – players and coaches alike – so publicly fired up. Ask one of the nicest and most laid back players off the field, Billy Vunipola. Big Billy was not even in the squad last year but he made it patently clear that this was the one match England were gunning for.
It is easy to read and listen to every nation piling into England’s admittedly chequered historical past for motivation. We should remember that England are used to the hatred and don’t lack motivation to get up for these games as well.
Finn Russell a beacon of hope
If Scotland are going to pull off a massive upset and a first win at Twickenham since 1983, then Finn Russell will be conjurer-in-chief. He is a wonderful player who has raised his game even further with his move to Racing 92 this season. Russell has been a shining beacon of excellence in the 2019 Six Nations for Scotland. Russell has added game management skills to his outstanding running game and he is now one of Scotland’s leaders. Without his sidekick Stuart Hogg, the onus will once again be on Russell to ignite Scotland’s backline. It will be a massive challenge given how many first choices are out injured.
Hamish Watson has to galvanise Scotland’s pack
It remains a big if, but, if Scotland’s forwards can get parity up front then they may give Russell the chance to spark out wide. The return of Hamish Watson partially offset’s the blow of losing someone like Stuart Hogg. Watson maybe small in size but he is incredible in making yards every time he carries the ball. And then there is his work at the breakdown. Watson alongside John Barclay and Ryan Wilson totally outplayed England’s backrow to set the foundation for Scotland’s epic win last year. Much of that was due to Watson’s expertise at the breakdown. Watson alongside Finn Russell was Scotland’s best player against Wales – and that was coming off the bench. Ultimately Scotland’s pack have to get their basics right and offer much more in their ball carrying than what we saw against Wales.
England need to replicate Dublin’s near perfect performance
With Henry Slade and Mark Wilson back in their starting positions, England have their starting XV from the beginning of this year’s Championship. An honourable exception being the injury stricken Mako Vunipola. The form of Manu Tuilagi bodes well against Scotland because Henry Slade will look to bring him into the game as much as possible. As powerful as Ben Te’o is, Tuilagi works much better when he has a playmaker beside him.
England will be looking to ramp up their power game on the back of their line-speed. Mark Wilson is a key cog in that strategy so England have all the tools to finish this encouraging campaign off with an emphatic win.
England poised to reclaim the Calcutta Cup
It was the match which derailed England’s previously imperious march towards the summit of World Rugby. Scotland ambushed England brilliantly at Murrayfield last year and they did it with something to spare. By the end of the 80 minutes, England were going up blind alleys without a plan A, B or C. It was a tactical masterpiece by Gregor Townsend and his orders were carried out to perfection by his troops on the field. Fast forward 12 months and both teams are at very different ends of the spectrum. England, despite a poor second half showing against Wales, have been impressive in this year’s Six Nations. They have their mojo back and more importantly a strong squad to choose from. Scotland in comparison are three defeats on the trot, an alarming as well as rising injury list and have forgotten how to win.
Regardless of what happens in Cardiff, England cannot wait to take on Scotland on Saturday night. It is difficult to see anything other than a convincing England win to get the Calcutta Cup back
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