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England will win by 15 even without Tuilagi - Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
Manu Tuilagi - PA

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Even without Manu Tuilagi, I can see England beating Wales by 15 points this weekend if things clicks into gear.

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This current England team is still in transition but Ireland, who are more of a well-oiled machine, beat them by 22 in Dublin a few weeks ago and Eddie Jones’ men have the capability to do something similar.

The fear factor of Tuilagi may not be there but the Twickenham effect will still be massive, with Wales having only won there twice in the Six Nations since 1988.

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It’s a desperate shame for every England fan that Tuilagi has pulled out with a hamstring injury and Sale will be hugely frustrated after managing him carefully and getting him fit and firing in recent weeks.

England Tuilagi
Manu Tuilagi (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Training loads are a different level under Eddie Jones and it’s another injury on his watch as well as yet another setback for Tuilagi, who you have to feel for most of all.

It’s also ironic that England lose their x-factor star on the same day that Jones was claiming Wales’ biggest x-factor player, Louis Rees-Zammit, isn’t healthy.

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There’s no doubt about it, Manu will be a major loss for England, but they’re used to being without him and, in reality, it’s in the forwards where they have a huge advantage.

Tuilagi would have been a big help to Marcus Smith, as well as adding an extra dimension to England’s attack, but if the pack get the dominance up front that I expect, then he’s the form fly half in the world at the moment and could still run riot.

This is a relatively new-look England backline but it’s an exciting one and, aside from maybe a Jonny May or Anthony Watson, it’s at full strength and the combinations are developing all the time.

On the other side of the coin, Wales’ attack has shown very little so far in this tournament but their backline does look pretty strong on paper.

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It’ll be interesting to see if they can find some form but it does look like Wayne Pivac has gone for the more experienced heads and safer bets in terms of selection, none more so than Alex Cuthbert’s inclusion ahead of Rees-Zammit.

England bench Six Nations
(Photo by Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images)

It’s clear from Eddie Jones’ selections that there’s no room for sentiment at all when he’s around but I’m surprised that Harry Randall has got the nod to start ahead of Ben Youngs.

Randall is the future but Youngs has been in good form of late and I’d have started him on the back of everything he’s done in an England jersey, as well as wanting to give him the chance to lead the team out as he breaks Jason Leonard’s record.

Wales tend to keep the ball on the field against England and not give them the chance to launch from lineout and you have to think it’s going to be more of the same this time around with Courtney Lawes back alongside Maro Itoje and Charlie Ewels.

The returning Taulupe Faletau and Ross Moriarty add power as well as experience to the Wales pack but England should have a major advantage in the front five.

Faletau
Wales back row Taulupe Faletau (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Not only that, if the starting XV don’t get the job done, Eddie Jones has 419 caps worth of quality to bring off the bench when he sees fit. Wales’ five forward replacements have just 44 caps between them.

England have come through a risk averse period of focusing on pure power and the kicking game and, although the attack hasn’t quite clicked fully against Scotland and Italy, the players look ready to take the shackles off.

Tuilagi or no Tuilagi, England are big favourites. Wales haven’t won at Twickenham since the 2015 World Cup and there have been better Welsh sides than this one that have tried and failed.

The conditions look set to be perfect and, while the absence of Tuilagi is a setback, England have the all-court game to beat Wales in different ways and I can see a comfortable 15-point victory for the home side.

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