Six Nations preview: England v Wales

8 February 2018, 15:24

England welcome Wales to Twickenham for an eagerly-anticipated Six Nations encounter on Saturday.

Both sides head into the match off the back of productive opening victories, with England beating Italy and Wales seeing off Scotland.

Wales are going in search of their first Test victory over England at Twickenham since their dramatic Rugby World Cup 2015 pool victory, while the home side's aim is to maintain the impressive win-record they hold under Eddie Jones.

Form

England: WWWWW

Last weekend's encounter in Rome saw the Australian's side put seven tries on the board - including three in the last 15 minutes.

An unblemished report card in the Old Mutual Wealth Series came before that and last summer a productive tour to Argentina saw numerous new caps handed out.

Injuries formed much of the pre-tournament discussion, but the return to fitness of Jack Nowell, Chris Robshaw, Maro Itoje and Mike Brown in the lead up to last weekend's Test opener was a major boost.

Wales: LWLWW

Wales' 34-7 victory over Scotland rightly turned heads as the home side showcased plenty of running rugby.

Right now, Warren Gatland's Test side is fuelled by confident and in-form players, epitomised by the 10 Scarlets in his starting XV.

Across the park, regional partnerships and combinations are being transferred onto the international stage and trusted to flourish in the Test arena, with Alun Wyn Jones providing the leadership from the engine room.

Last meeting

Wales 16-21 England

The two sides meeting in last year's Six Nations was decided by Elliot Daly's 76th-minute try.

Liam Williams' score and the boot of Leigh Halfpenny had given Wales a 13-8 half-time lead.

Owen Farrell and Halfpenny traded penalties in the third quarter before Farrell cut the deficit to two points (16-14) with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Wales' missed touch handed England their key scoring opportunity and, after pinpoint long passes from George Ford and Farrell, Daly finished the decisive score by out-pacing Alex Cuthbert.

Key Players

England - Jonathan Joseph

The Bath centre is preferred to Worcester Warriors' Ben Te'o in England's starting XV and has been tasked with showcasing the fruits of his experience - particularly in defence.

Wales - Rhys Patchell

The 24-year-old has been the focus a great deal of attention this week. His vision and distribution will be key to Wales' output, and the aforementioned familiarity with the Scarlets players around him should hold him in good stead.

Pre-match thoughts

Eddie Jones

In the build up to this Test match England's head coach firmly turned the spotlight on Wales' fly-half.

"They've got to get the ball wide and Patchell hasn't played much Test match rugby. He's a young guy, he's inexperienced and he's their third choice 10. He's got to get the ball wide and that's going to be a big job for him.

"It's going to be different to playing against Scotland. Scotland couldn't cope with the expectation and now he's got to cope with the expectation of playing well. He's got to find guys around him to help him because he's going to be under some heat."

Warren Gatland

The 54-year-old has charged his side with delivering a more clinical performance on Saturday afternoon.

"At the top level you have got to be accurate. We had two passes go astray [against Scotland] and a couple of other opportunities where our players have gone on their own or have gone the wrong way.

"We have spoken this week about being clinical and taking our chances and having to step up from last week to improve again this week."

Team News

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care; 1 Make Vunipola, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Maro Itoje, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Chris Robshaw, 8 Sam Simmonds.

Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jack Nowell.

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Cory Hill, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 Josh Navidi, 8 Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 George North.