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The grudge match is upon us. Wales have somehow managed to turn around their woeful form under Wayne Pivac prior to the tournament to win their opening two rounds, while England looked extremely lacklustre against the Scottish in round one and predictably got back to winning ways against Italy last time out.
The bookies give Wales just over a 30% chance of winning this encounter at Principality Stadium, and although history would suggest differently, with the hosts winning seven of the 10 meetings between the two sides here since 2005, this current Welsh team look well below par.
Of course, they have beaten both Ireland and Scotland by five and one point margins respectively, both opponents received red cards and we’re unconvinced by those results. Indeed, Scotland very nearly went over in the dying minutes, while the Irish will still be dumbfounded by Billy Burns’ missed touch kick in stoppage time to seal their fate.
Pivac’s charges were W3-L7 prior to the start of this seasons’ Six Nations, beating only Italy (twice) and Georgia, and although they may be more confident off the back of a couple of fortunate results, we certainly don’t think they have what it takes to mix it amongst the big boys yet.
The Red Roses have problems of their own though, with the Saracens contingent looking off the pace except Maro Itoje, but with two rounds under their belt you’d expect them to start performing at the level we know they’re capable of.
Nobody looked more off the pace than Billy Vunipola, who if he continues the way he’s going will miss out on yet another Lions Tour (should it go ahead).
Pivac has opted to promote Kieran Hardy to the starting birth at scrum half, while George North and Jonathan Davies will make the centre partnership in a complete change from a fortnight ago against Scotland. Josh Adams comes straight in onto the wing too in replacement of Leigh Halfpenny, as Liam Williams moves to fullback.
The only changes of any significance in the England camp sees Courtney Lawes withdraw through injury, forcing Eddie Jones to resort back to the selection of Mark Wilson, while Jamie George returns to his normal starting spot at hooker.
Half Time/Full Time – England/England
At the prices, we’d struggle to get behind England in the 1X2 market, but a good angle in this one looks to be in the HT/FT.
Wales when excluding their fixtures with Italy and Georgia, have been behind at the half way point in eight of their nine matches under current management, trailing by four or more points in all eight of the matches they were behind at that point, while they only went on to win two of the nine matches where their opponents received a red card.
By contrast, only South Africa, France and more recently Scotland have defeated this English side form their last 19 outings since August just prior the beginning of the 2019 World Cup.
Indeed, 15 of their 16 victories over that period saw them ahead at the 40-minute mark and the final whistle, leading by more than two points in each of those too.
With that in mind, we certainly wouldn’t put anyone off a little flutter on the half time handicap market, but at the prices, the HT/FT market is our selection.
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Wales v England Teams
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James Botham, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Uilisi Halaholo
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 George Martin, 21 Ben Earl, 22 Dan Robson, 23 Max Malins