The whole Six Nations feels very strange now with at least Ireland v Italy and Italy v England falling victim to Coronavirus and it’ll be incredibly tough to reschedule those games so there’ll be a lot of people hoping France can win their remaining two games and clinch a Grand Slam.
Of course, England can still win the tournament if they don’t but, even though not many will be thinking about that at Twickenham now, it’s important to finish on a high and continue the momentum from an impressive performance against Ireland a couple of weeks ago.
A huge amount of the build-up to the game this week has been spent talking about Dan Biggar, who has made a Lazarus-esque recovery after suffering a nasty looking knee injury for Northampton against Saracens last weekend.
There is still a major question mark over his fitness and all England should be doing with their first five bits of playing is testing him out and, specifically, giving Manu Tuilagi the ball and sending him down his channel.
It isn’t just Biggar who’ll be tested early on though. George North has been out with concussion again recently and some have questioned whether he should still be playing the game so he’ll receive a stern examination, and Liam Williams hasn’t played for a while either.
If they all pass with flying colours, it could be game on which a lot of people, including me, didn’t think would be the case at the start of the week.
I still think England have the edge, though, and it’s in the tight five where I think they have the biggest advantage. The set piece battle will be epic and I expect England to put Wales under a similar amount of pressure to what they did to Ireland.
That pressure comes from the kicking game as well as physicality and if Dan Biggar does struggle, that’s another area where England will have a significant advantage.
England and France are kicking the ball more than the other teams in the tournament and it isn’t just putting high balls up, it’s using the tactical kicking game to turn defences and win the territorial battle.
New Zealand kicked more than anyone else in the world for a long time and were the number one team in the sport. That’s obviously something Eddie Jones has looked at and it was really effective against Ireland in the last round.
A lot of these players know each other very well from working with one another at club level but I don’t think that’ll have a massive bearing on the game, apart from perhaps Owen Farrell having an insight into Nick Tompkins’ defensive reads.
Tompkins has shone with ball in hand at times in this tournament but been found wanting defensively and Tuilagi is arguably England’s biggest weapon if used correctly so that could be key.
I started the week thinking England could run away with it and win by 20 points. Wales have put out a team that looks as strong as any they’ve named in this tournament on paper so that’s narrowed the margin but I’m backing England to come away with a 12-point victory.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now