5 Six Nations England debutants hamper championship hopes
England will field no fewer than five Six Nations debutants in the cauldron-like atmosphere of Wales’ Millennium Stadium for the tournament curtain-raiser, calling into serious question their joint-favouritism for the championship.
Alongside Ireland, the English are still 15/8 favourites for a first Six Nations title since 2011, though their outsiders’ price just to beat Wales at 13/8 looks even more suspect after the team announcement two days prior to the big off.
Since defeating Australia to sign off the Autumn Internationals with a degree of panache, England’s squad has been decimated by injuries to key personnel including Owen Farrell, David Wilson, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Ben Morgan.
This has resulted in a vastly different line-up against Wales than that which saw off the Wallabies at Twickenham.
Stuart Lancaster has named a starting XV containing nine changes with Bath Rugby quartert Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, George Ford and Dave Attwood joined by Saracens’ second-row George Kruis.
Although three of Bath’s stars will line up in the backs, with Ford retaining fly-half duties, Lancaster is also road-testing a brand-new centre partnership of Joseph and Northampton Saints’ Luther Burrell.
Lancaster will be reliant on the synergy of his Bath-based backs as the platform for England’s attack, though against a Welsh outfit containing a large percentage of their double Grand Slam winning personnel this is not the ideal time for experimentation.
At least some experience returns to the England line-up as Dan Coles and James Haskell are included in the Red Rose’s pack, while Sarries’ Billy Vunipola gets a chance to take his
Premiership form into the number eight role.
However, Wales head coach Warren Gatland will be rubbing his hands at the prospect of his seasoned team taking it to an inexperienced England side in front of arguably the most intimidating arena the tournament has to offer.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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