England look unstoppable and a win for Wales would be a major upset

Eddie Jones’ players claim they fear a backlash against old enemies Wales in the Autumn Nations Cup on Saturday… but England look UNSTOPPABLE and a win for Wayne Pivac’s side would be a monumental upset

  • England go into their match against enemies Wales as overwhelming favourites 
  • The game is often a tussle for supremacy but a win for Wales would be an upset
  • Eddie Jones’ men are in unstoppable form and there is danger of a gulf forming 
  • Despite this, England’s players have insisted they will be respectful and ruthless 

England made a familiar journey west on Friday, full of respect for a rivalry which they could leave in ruins on Saturday. Eddie Jones’s squad travelled along the M4 as diplomats with deadly intent.

Neighbours collide in Llanelli in the final round of the Autumn Nations Cup pool stage, but the ramifications of their latest encounter extend beyond the confines of this contrived tournament.

After so many years of highly competitive cross-border conflict, the old enemies may discover on Saturday that there is now a gulf between them.

England go into their match against Wales on Saturday unusually as overwhelming favourites

A jarring mismatch appears on the cards. Both sides of the Severn are expecting a Red Rose triumph — possibly a defining one.

For a generation, this has been a fervent tussle for supremacy, but a Welsh win this time would be regarded as a monumental upset.

The rivalry was re-established during Warren Gatland’s successful era in charge of Wales, in which neither side could establish long-term dominance over the other. They met 18 times between 2008 and 2019, with 10 victories for England and eight by Gatland’s men. The overall points difference in that period was a mere six in favour of the English.

Wayne Pivac’s side are a shadow of their former selves after losing six matches in eight games

Now, there are signs of a divergence. Jones has England thundering ahead, with their pack imperious and their defence supreme. England have so much firepower and so many Test-class players to call upon across the board, especially up front.

By contrast, Wales are in trouble, following six defeats in eight matches since Pivac took over. They have several injury casualties and not enough pedigree cover.

They have had management upheaval and been forced to circle the wagons in the face of piercing criticism, while insisting that a tactical shift is under way which will require time and patience.

Those are luxuries which don’t exist on a day like this. England have the capacity to inflict terrible harm on vulnerable opponents.

The bad news for Wales is that the visitors are determined not to take them lightly.

The clash against the old enemies has for some time been a fervent tussle for supremacy

THE BIG MATCHUPS 

W Jones v Sinckler 

Wales have picked a front-row designed for scrummaging – with Wyn Jones adding his 120kg frame and sheep-farming strength. They fronted up against Georgia but England’s scrum has been their sharpest weapon this autumn. Unless Jones can hold his own, Wales could spend the day playing off scrappy ball.

AW Jones v Itoje 

Warren Gatland will be keeping a particularly close eye on the two men tipped as Lions captains. Itoje is looking stronger with every game, leading England’s physicality with a dominant performance against Ireland’s James Ryan. Jones has been labelled a fading force but will be looking to make a statement.

Biggar v Ford 

As the player who leads England’s attacking meetings, Ford will be hoping to spark England’s backline after a series of performances dominated by the forwards. He returns from injury to fill the No 10 jersey against Dan Biggar, and will need to change the strategy in the absence of wrecking ball Ollie Lawrence.

by Nik Simon 

George Ford, reinstated to the No 10 shirt, explained that Jones’s side aim to be respectful and ruthless: ‘We’re going to come up against a team that will do anything to win this game,’ he said. ‘That makes Wales a different beast.

‘What we’ve done up to this point isn’t going to be good enough. We need to raise our performance levels again to get a result. Any guy playing in the red shirt against England is going to do everything they can to win that game. What I would say is that we’re the same. We’re massively motivated, competitive and as hungry as ever.’

Asked if being written off — as Wales have been — can be a powerful motivator, he added: ‘It can be. Sometimes it can galvanise a team. It can bring the best out of a team.

‘That’s why we’re preparing for the best possible Wales performance this week. We understand that situations like that can bring the best out of them.

‘We’ve had a conversation as players that we don’t want to put in a really poor performance and have a kick up the backside ourselves. We want to keep getting better and learning while winning.

‘Sometimes that can be more difficult than having a bad performance or a loss to give you that. We want to stay ahead of that curve.’

Ford’s half-back partner for club and country, Ben Youngs, echoed the need to avoid regarding Saturday’s outcome as a foregone conclusion, adding: ‘Wales v England is a game when form and past results go out the window. In this fixture, form and past results are irrelevant.’

Another stalwart of the back line, Jonathan Joseph, struck a similar note, saying: ‘They’ve lost a few games recently, but they’ll look at this game as the chance to turn their season around.

George Ford, who returns at No 10 for England, says his side will be respectful of the Welsh

Eddie Jones’ players have insisted they are expecting a backlash from out-of-form Wales

‘We know we’ve got a huge battle on our hands. We know how big a challenge it is playing Wales — it’s always one of our biggest games and we have to be right up there mentally and preparation-wise.’

Recent history suggests games against Wales have been among the biggest for England. Yet Pivac’s team do not appear equipped to offer meaningful resistance.

There is no baying mob of a home crowd to add raucous support to the underdogs’ efforts and in a silent arena, their limitations are likely to be exposed.

England hold all the aces: they can dominate with the set-piece, the driving game, kicking, defence and flashes of attacking brilliance. Add to that the depth that will ensure fresh impetus from the bench.

Unstoppable England hold all the aces as they look to dominate play in the forwards and backs

Even the great Alun Wyn Jones will struggle to lead Wales out of this tight corner, despite the reassuring presence of a few more available veterans: Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny.

The hosts have too many areas of inexperience and transition, which does not bode well.

And with their regions continuing to struggle, this wonderful, intense, tribal sporting rivalry is in danger of becoming one-sided for some time to come.




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