Stephen Ferris on Wales v England plus Fiji and Scotland
England swept aside Ireland 18-7 last week, but can they continue their 100% record away in Wales on Saturday?
Our man Stephen Ferris gives his expectations ahead of the big clash, plus thoughts on Fiji and Scotland’s chances after this weekend’s match was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Wales vs England
Can England top their conference to set up a final in their last game of the Autumn Nations Cup? First, they must beat Wales away from home on Saturday, with all eyes on the at Parc Y Scarlets stadium at 16:00. When was the last time England were as short as 1/12 to win away against Wales? A long long time ago is the answer.
England are coming off the back of a defensive masterclass against Ireland. Making over 200 tackles and lots of those being dominant tackles, the Irish lads were running up blind alleys all afternoon and just couldn’t get a foothold in the game. It almost felt like the English were toying with Ireland at times. This is worrying for Wales who are sure to feel that physicality when they try to take on this English powerhouse.
The match will not be played at the Principality Stadium, but I think this smaller pitch at Parc Y Scarlets could suit England if they continue with the game plan of kicking the leather off the ball and tackling like men possessed. You can see I’m certainly not thinking there’s a chance of an upset in the match!
But how are Wales going to put up a fight? For me they need to get back to playing for the shirt and what it means to represent Wales. Warren Gatland was the master of getting the best out of his players both physically and emotionally, and Wayne Pivac needs to somehow get that passion back into his players. Yes, they are going through a transitional period with new coaches and a change in how they are trying to play, however International Rugby is all about getting results.
It was just over a year ago when Wales came so close to beating the eventual Rugby World Cup winners South Africa in the World Cup semi-final. It’s just amazing that with a very similar group of players they seem to be so far off the pace. Everyone is hoping that Wales can find form from nowhere and shock the English. But the reality is, England are a much better side and it would take a shocking performance from them, rather than a good performance by Wales for Eddie Jones and his White Army to lose this game.
You should expect lots of kicking from both sides in this contest. England will try to out muscle Wales and bully them into submission. I don’t think Wales will roll over that easily though, and they need to make sure their discipline is on point if they are to hang on to any hope of getting a performance.
Prediction – England to use muscle and brawn to wear down their opponents.
England -10 on the alternative handicap at 4/9, or if you are feeling brave, England -16 on the handicap at 10/11.
Tip – Draw on the handicap of 16 points. 25/1 on this. And Owen Farrell to score anytime at 5/1
First try scorer – Jamie George scored a hattrick two week ago and was inches away from the first try last weekend against Ireland. He’s priced at 10/1 to get first try and I’ll be backing the hooker to get on the score sheet once again.
Scotland and Fiji
Fiji will miss a third game of the Autumn Nations Cup with players still testing positive for COVID-19. Their match with Scotland this weekend will not go ahead, but there’s hope the Fijians can field a side for the final round on December 5th.
Scotland took on the French flair at Murrayfield last week. Although there wasn’t much flair to be honest with a very professional performance by France to get the job done and win the match by seven points.
The flyhalf position continues to be an issue for Scotland as their style of play is more pragmatic when Duncan Weir starts for them. Finn Russell and Adam Hastings are still out injured, so Weir is going to have to up the tempo and direct his troops a little better in a couple of weeks’ time.
If Fiji can play in the last game of the competition then watch out for the Bristol Bears star Semi Radrada, Glasgow warriors lock Leone Nakaawa, Stade Francais centre Waisea Nayacalevu and Leicester Tigers’ man mountain winger Namani Nadolo.
These Fijians are all proud men and they will be hoping to make their country proud. They will also aim to prove to a lot of people that they deserve to be playing in the Autumn Nations Cup, and that they can compete at this level. Fingers crossed we will see the Fijians in full flight before the comp ends in two weeks’ time.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing