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Saturday Aug 12, 2023

Match Preview: England out for revenge as Wales travel to Twickenham

England head coach Steve Borthwick has rung the changes to his side following last week’s loss to Wales in Cardiff.

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Playing in front of their home crowd at Twickenham, the Red Roses will hope to find an attacking groove that was sorely missed during the opening round of this two-match series.

Changing eleven starters from last week, Borthwick is clearly in search of a spark and crucial a, consistent structure.

Starting with returning captain Owen Farrell who returns to the starting flyhalf role with last week’s starter Marcus Smith dropped from the squad entirely.

On the bench, 30-year-old George Ford makes his return to the international fold and could well feature alongside Farrell later in the fixture in a return to their successful dual playmaker partnership.

Outside Farrell, Ollie Lawrence and Joe Marchant link up in what, on paper, is a dynamic centre partnership, whilst Elliot Daly, Henry Arundell and Freddie Stewart make up the back three.

In the pack, Borthwick has opted for size and power, with Billy Vunipola linking up with Courtney Lawes and Ben Earle in the backrow.

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Ahead of them, the tight five see’s Maro Itoje and George Martin start at lock, with Will Stuart, Jamie George and Joe Marler forming a gargantuan front row.

Borthwick’s sweeping changes have not only been matched by Gatland but bettered with the Welsh boss changing his entire starting XV.

Interestingly, Gatland has selected Owen Williams to start at flyhalf ahead of stalwart Dan Biggar, who is once again on the bench. Tomos Williams will join Williams in the halfbacks, with Kieran Hardy providing cover from the bench.

One of the most hotly contested areas in this Welsh squad is in the midfield, where Nick Tompkins and Joe Roberts will get an opportunity to stake their claim this weekend.

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In the back three, Liam Williams starts at fullback, with Josh Adams and Tom Rogers on the wings.

Headlining the forwards’ selection, former New Zealand U20 representative Taine Plumtree will make his second international appearance for Wales. The 23-year-old arrived from Super Rugby franchise the Blues this offseason and has immediately become a key contributor for Gatland’s squad.

Joining Plumtree in the backrow is Leicester Tiger’s star Tommy Reffell who will look to match Jac Morgan’s exceptional outing from a week ago. The two youngsters will be joined by veteran Dan Lydiate who, at 35-years-old will be hoping to make it to his third Rugby World Cup.

Continuing the theme of experience and youth pairing up, veteran Adam Beard joins 24-year-old Rhys Davies in the secondrow. Whilst Beard is just three years Davies’s senior, the 27-year-old is nearing 50 appearances for Wales. As such, he will offer key experience, in particular at line-out time against a giant English pack.

Captaining the side will be Hooker Dewi Lake, who will line up alongside Tomas Francis and Gareth Thomas in the front row.

Speaking about his appointment as captain, Lake was clearly ecstatic, saying, “I was on the physio bed, and he (Gatland) just came over and asked if I would like to captain the team.

“It was a bit awkward for me, probably because you are obviously stunned at first, and I just said I would love to do it.

“Yes, there was a bit of silence where I think I just said the one word because I was so shocked.”

“The game plan is going to be relatively the same this week.”

Discussing the challenge that England possesses, Lake was not willing to rest on the laurels of last week’s victory.

“It is about fronting up, it is about matching them physically up-front.

“It is important to have a bit of an edge and to not take a backwards step. It’s also about standing up for yourself and not letting any kind of occasion or any person get the better of you.

“We are very much looking forward to our return to Twickenham Stadium on Saturday and the opportunity to play in front of our supporters again,” he said.

“England versus Wales is always a special fixture, and we are pleased to be playing the visitors again so soon.

“We’re delighted for Ellis, who will win his 50th cap from the bench. He’s a brilliant professional, both on and off the field, and I’m sure Saturday will be a very proud moment for him and his family.”

Prediction
With such a wide array of changes to both sides, it is difficult to get a true gauge of where both squads are.

Wales took round one and certainly looked the better of the two sides. In saying that, the fixture was a start/stop affair that was disjointed, to say the least.

This week both sides have, in theory, picked stronger sides bar a few positions but again, it is likely that there will be a lack of cohesiveness given the array of changes.

Based purely on face value of the quality of players that the respective sides have picked, England should edge this one. Throw in the Twickenham factor, and Wales will face a sterner test than last week. England by 6.

Team Line-Ups
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Henry Arundell, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Martin, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 George Ford, 23 Max Malins

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Tom Rogers, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taine Plumtree, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Rhys Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Dewi Lake (c), 1 Gareth Thomas

Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Christ Tshiunza, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Keiran Williams

Match Information
Date: Saturday, August 12

Venue: Twickenham Stadium

Kick-off: 17:30 BST 11.30am CT

Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)

Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Andrea Piardi (Italy)

TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

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