Six Nations: No mind games from Wales, just supreme confidence
Former Wales captain Gareth Williams called Warren Gatland’s early announcement of his team to face England in Cardiff’s Six Nations opener ‘a mind game’, but it wasn’t even as interesting as all that.
The truth is, Gatland practically has a full squad of players at his disposal for the clash, which the hosts are 1/2 to win, and knows exactly what his first XV looks like.
As England forwards coach Graham Rowntree noted after hearing the news:
“They can name their team whenever they want. We’ll name our team on Wednesday, what difference does it make?”
When the only changes to Wales’ last Autumn Internationals line up, which beat South Africa 12-6, involve bringing in the 2013 British and Irish Lions’ first-choice hooker Richard Hibbard, plus some bloke on the wing named George North, then it makes little difference.
11 of the Welsh side who started their last clash with England at the Millennium Stadium, when the hosts secured the 2013 championship with a 30-3 trouncing, will be in from the off on Friday night.
Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Rhys Webb and Dan Lydiate have replaced Adam Jones, Ian Evans, Mike Phillips and Justin Tipuric since, with the latter pair named on the bench for this clash.
This Wales side practically picks itself, something that certainly can’t be said of injury-ravaged England right now.
No wonder Rowntree, Andy Farrell and head honcho Stuart Lancaster are taking the extra day with 12 players missing from their roster through injury, including three second-rows, three centres (four if you include part-timer Owen Farrell) and two back-rows.
Of the England XV that lined up in Cardiff almost two years ago, only props Joe Marler and Dan Cole, captain Chris Robshaw, scrum-half Ben Youngs and full-back Mike Brown (who played on the wing that day) are likely to do so this time round.
Under the circumstances, Wales look a wild price at 7/1 to claim their third Grand Slam under Gatland, with England on the drift but still pretty short at 6s.
Defending Six Nations champions Ireland are 11/2 to win all their games.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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