Connect with us

6 Nations

Wales v England – The Key Battles

Six Nations Round 3: Wales vs England

Published

on

Written by Oliver Green
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Two sides looking to maintain their unbeaten starts to the 2019 Six Nations will meet at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

Eddie Jones’ England have already beaten majority favourites Ireland in their own back yard in round one, and swept aside France two weeks ago at Twickenham.

Meanwhile Wales, led by Warren Gatland, produced a remarkable comeback to scrape past the French in Paris, and stumbled to victory over Italy with a much-changed side.

With both sides’ prospects of a Grand Slam on the line, this historic rivalry looks set to be reignited once again.

Ahead of this monumental clash, we’ve taken a look at some of the key battles where this game could be won and lost.

Rob Evans vs Ben Moon

With Mako Vunipola injured, Ben Moon is one of two enforced changes for England. He will take on the returning Rob Evans at loosehead, who was seemingly ‘rested’ for Wales’ game against Italy.

Moon has played just 37 minutes so far this campaign; during the emphatic victory over France. The Exeter Chiefs man only made his England debut during the autumn internationals, and has just 5 caps to his name.

In contrast, Evans made his first appearance for Wales four years ago, and has made 32 appearances for his national side.

With that being said, it is clear that the Welshman has experience on his side in this matchup. He will have also benefited from missing the Italy game, and be in peak condition for Saturday.

Moon was a surprise call-up to the England squad for some, and he will have to assert his dominance in the early stages in Cardiff if he wants to prove his doubters wrong.

Evans may be superior in the scrum, but if Moon can replicate his industrious, hard-working performances he has put in for Exeter this season, he may come out on top in terms of metres and tackles made across the course of the game.

Gareth Anscombe vs Owen Farrell

Owen Farrell’s displays in the first two games of this competition have further cemented his status as one of the world’s best fly-halves.

With no disrespect to Gareth Anscombe, who is a tremendously intelligent number ten, it would take a serious performance from Welshman to outshine Eddie Jones’ golden boy.

Farrell’s stats so far dwarf those of his counterpart – he has already racked up 29 points compared to Anscombe’s 6, he has a higher goal-kicking accuracy (71% compared to 60%), and he has a higher average gain (27.5m compared to 18m).

It is not just Farrell’s attacking prowess that makes him such a daunting opponent; his defensive play has improved massively over the last few seasons. He has already made 22 tackles across the first two rounds.

Anscombe has however shown what positive impact he can have on this Wales team. Prior to his introduction against Italy, Wales were lacklustre in attack and looked pedestrian at times. With Anscombe’s kicking from hand, the Welsh backs looked far more dangerous and dynamic.

Gatland’s decision to select Anscombe ahead of Dan Biggar for such a crucial game highlights his trust in the 27-year-old.

If Anscombe is to come out on top in this battle though, he will primarily have to be more clinical from the tee. A 60% kick success rate against this England side will not go unpunished.

George North vs Jonny May

Jonny May is yet another England player who seems to be hitting their best form in this year’s Six Nations. He currently leads the way in the try-scoring charts with four, and was electric in England’s demolition of France.

In comparison, George North is beginning to look back to his rampaging best after a difficult period with injuries. His brace against France in round one demonstrated his devastating pace, power and finishing ability.

He was one of the victims of Warren Gatland’s many changes for the game against Italy, so the game on Saturday will be his first chance to add to his tally.

North’s defensive ability will also be under scrutiny against England, should Jones’ side be as dominant as they have in the first two games. His sheer physical presence may offer a different challenge for England’s back three who have been so fluid so far this competition.

Although May and North may not be playing directly opposite each other on the pitch, their roles as their respective team’s talisman makes this a key battle.

It may be the case that the winger that is more clinical when they get the chance, and whoever scores more points on Saturday, is on the winning side.

Gareth Davies vs Ben Youngs

Ben Youngs seems to have finally established himself as Eddie Jones’ first-choice scrum-half, amid stiff competition in the position during the head coaches reign.

The Leicester Tigers man has started both games in the Six Nations, and has missed just 11 minutes across the two rounds.

In comparison, Gareth Davies is Warren Gatland’s third different starting number nine. Davies has played just 46 minutes across Wales’ first two games, with Tomos Williams and Aled Davies favoured ahead of the Scarlets man.

Despite this, Davies has managed to gain more metres than Youngs so far in the competition – The Welshman has made 22m, compared to the Englishman’s 17m.

Youngs however, has been much more secure in possession. Davies has twice as many handling errors (4) than Youngs (2), in a much shorter space of time.

This highlights a new Ben Youngs that Eddie Jones has moulded; he has cut out silly mistakes from his game, albeit at the expense of some the poaching he was known for in his younger years.

His change in style may have negatively impacted his individual stats, but his overall contribution to the team has been massively positive.

Davies will try to be as much of a nuisance to the England back-row as he can in Cardiff, and if he is able to retain possession, his small gains may prove to be vital to any Wales success.

6 Nations

Huge boost for Ulster & Ireland as Henderson signs new deal

Published

on

Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster captain, Iain Henderson, who has represented the province on 116 occasions, has secured his future with the club for the next two years.

Craigavon-born Henderson, who took up the role of Ulster captain in 2019, has progressed through the Ulster development system. Starting with mini rugby at Academy RFC, his early playing career saw him reach the final of the Danske Bank Schools Cup in 2010 with Belfast Royal Academy, represent Queen’s University Belfast as well as Ireland at Age-Grade level, before quickly rising through the ranks of senior professional rugby in the province.

Iain, who captained Ireland for the first time against France in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, made his international debut against South Africa in November 2012 and has won 60 caps to date for his country. 

A Lions tourist in 2017, Iain succeeded Rory Best as Ulster captain in 2019.  

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented,

“Over the past few seasons Iain has really developed into a leader within both the Ireland and Ulster squads. He is part of the national leadership group, captaining Ireland recently for the first time and we are delighted to have ensured that he continues his career in Ireland.”

Iain Henderson, commented,

“It has been a great honour to captain both Ulster and Ireland in recent times. Irish rugby is in a good place despite the disruption the sport has experienced during the pandemic. As professionals, we have been in a privileged position to be able to continue playing and I know we all hope to see supporters back in the Aviva and Kingspan in the near future.”

Continue Reading

6 Nations

Ireland Release 12 Players For Guinness PRO14

Published

on

Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

The Ireland coaching group will retain a 24 man panel for the two day mini-camp on Thursday and Friday this week at the IRFU High Performance Centre at the Sport Ireland Campus.

There were no additional injury concerns following the match against France and the players (Burns, Healy, Henderson) who were removed for HIAs will follow the appropriate protocols this week.

Twelve players are returning to their provincial bubbles to avail of game time in the Guinness PRO14 this weekend – Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan (Connacht), Ryan Baird, Ross ByrneJack Conan (Leinster), Craig CaseyAndrew ConwayShane DalyChris Farrell (Munster) and Stuart McCloskeyTom O’Toole (Ulster).

The three players who provided specialist cover at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday – Harry ByrneJohn Cooney  and Eric O’Sullivan– have also returned to their respective provinces.

All members of the Ireland squad and backroom team undertook routine PCR tested on Monday producing no positive results.  The group will undergo further routine testing  again this week as per our protocols.

Ireland Squad – Two Day Camp February 17/18

Backs

Billy Burns (Ulster) 5 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 90 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 7 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 49 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 8 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 26 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 4 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 96 caps

Forwards

Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 19 caps
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 46 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 106 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 60 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 18 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 8 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 40 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 33 caps
CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 48 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps

Returning to Provinces

Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) uncapped
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 12 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) uncapped
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 17 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Con) 1 cap
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped

Continue Reading

6 Nations

Farrell forced to make big changes for Ireland v France

Published

on

Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

The Ireland coaching group have named the side that will face France in round 2 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship.

There’s a new half-back pairing, a new captain a cap record in the front row and one uncapped player on the bench.

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton and vice-captain James Ryan have not hit all their markers this week in the return to play protocols so are not considered for selection.

Ulster’s Iain Henderson will captain Ireland for the first time, becoming the 108th player to lead Ireland. He will be partnered in the second row by Tadhg Beirne.

The front row that started against Wales of Cian HealyRob Herring and Andrew Porter is retained. Healy will win his 106th cap taking him ahead of John Hayes (105) as Ireland’s most capped prop.

In the backrow Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander are joined by Rhys Ruddock who slots in on the blindside flank.

Conor Murray picked up a hamstring strain in training this week and has been ruled out of this game. Jamison Gibson Park comes in to start at 9 and will partner Billy Burns.

Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose line out in the centre and the back three is unchanged with  Hugo Keenan at fullback flanked by  Keith Earls and James Lowe.

There are four changes in the replacements as Ed Byrne, Ultan Dillane, Ross Byrne and the uncapped Craig Casey come in while Ronan Kelleher, Tadgh Furlong, Will Connors and Jordan Larmour complete the bench for the weekend.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending