England v Wales: Red Rose redemption linked to discipline
Aspiring Six Nations champions collide at Twickenham on the penultimate weekend as Wales look to ruin England’s Grand Slam ambitions and simultaneously place one hand on the trophy, while their hosts seek revenge for World Cup misery in pursuit of unblemished glory.
When teams face each other as regularly as these gladiators of northern hemisphere rugby do, it’s only natural to study recent meetings for clues as to what the outcome could be.
In this respect Wales’ famous raid on Rugby HQ during the World Cup barely six months ago would be the obvious reference point.
However, while there will be some evidence to point to, especially where Warren Gatland’s 28-25 winners are concerned, there is a case for judging this game purely on the merits of this tournament.
While the majority of the playing personnel survived the Stuart Lancaster purge, England under Eddie Jones have to be judged as a different animal, if not an entirely altered outfit.
The English are the only side to have won all three matches in this year’s Six Nations and managed a comfortable victory over a troubled Ireland side that Gatland’s men could only draw with, albeit they were on their travels and the Red Rose held home advantage.
England have scored the most tries in the tournament and gained the most metres, which smacks of a side unafraid to play with ball in hand.
Bath Rugby backs Jonathan Joseph – on course to defend his tournament top tryscorer title with three already – and teammate Anthony Watson (1), have been England’s greatest threats.
The powerful running duo have received a very generous price boost from Ladbrokes to both score tries, enhanced from 16/1 to 25/1, which could be the bet of the game for those thinking of investment.
The hosts have scored the most points and conceded the fewest, earning them a 35-point difference over Wales in the table and their hurdling the 21.5-point mark themselves looks a snap at 5/6 accordingly.
Time and time again though England have been let down by their discipline in big games.
This was never more evident than in the last clash, when seven successful penalties from Welsh number 10 Dan Biggar played a large part in his country silencing Twickenham in September.
Having conceded the most penalties so far in the competition so far, Jones must hit the message home that their attacking prowess will count for nothing if they let themselves down at the breakdown.
As a 6/4 shot, Wales kicking successfully between the posts as the first scoring play must be a consideration for punters.
This should be a landmark win for Jones very early in his career against a well-oiled, yet less-than vintage Wales, but if they cannot keep their heads under the referee’s gaze in the early stages, get those in-play bets on a Welsh upset.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.