Ahead of England and Wales’ clash on Saturday afternoon, we look at three head-to-head battles to watch out for.
1. Rhys Patchell vs George Ford
England coach Eddie Jones hasn’t been shy in getting a word in on the Rhys Patchell this week. He questioned whether he is up to the task of international rugby and how he will deal with Jonathan Joseph at outside centre.
Patchell won’t be worried one bit about the attention he has received, if anything he will be flattered he has been singled out. Jones often uses this tactic during midweek to rattle players in form who are a threat to his team. Patchell was sublime last week at 10 and it wouldn’t be surprising to see another commanding game from him again.
George Ford had a field day against Italy, showcasing his sublime range of passing that can pose defences real problems. He combines so well with Farrell. A combination of Ford’s neat interplay at first receiver with dangerous strike runners outside spells trouble for any team. Wales will need to be aware of the threat the Leicester man possesses with ball in hand.
2. Gareth Davies vs Danny Care
Saturday’s game features two of the sharpest 9s in world rugby. Care is often used as a ‘finisher’ for England but he’ll have to make his impact from the off. England play with such pace and tempo when the Harlequin is on the field and he will be integral to unlocking Wales’ defence.
Gareth Davies is in the form of his life at the moment. He is so sharp around the ruck and he has genuine pace. He is always a threat in broken play and he has a knack of being the right place to support his runners. Wales will looking for the Scarlets half-back to continue his good form on Saturday.
3. Alun Wyn Jones vs Maro Itoje
They were teammates during the Lions tour, but there will be no love lost between these two this Saturday.
Alun Wyn Jones brings so much to the Wales team. He has an aura that inspires his team to go up a level in performance. It is to his credit that he has developed his game in recent years to become a modern day lock where there is more to do than just the dirty work. Jones has showed some sublime touches with ball in hand in recent years as well as impressive ball carries – most notably his storming line break against Scotland in round one.
Itoje has been colossal for England since he debut and he rarely ever seems to have a bad game. The last time he faced off against Wales at Twickenham he produced an eye-catching Man of the Match display.
He seemed to be everywhere that day, tackling everything that came his way and winning numerous penalties over the ball. Jones’ England will want a similar display from the Saracens man this Saturday.