What English rugby icons think of Wales’ chances in huge Six Nations

What English rugby icons think of Wales’ chances in huge Six Nations

The Triple Crown showdown between Wales and England is now just days away.

A number of former England stars have been giving their thoughts looking ahead to the Principality Stadium clash.

This is what the had to say.

David Flatman

Former England prop David Flatman, now a leading TV pundit, has been looking at the area where he believes the match will be won and lost.

“I think a power battle will decide the game,” he told WalesOnline.

“It’s nice to think it wouldn’t all be about blunt force trauma and big impacts, but so much of the game is now.

“Wales isn’t a rugby nation that is currently blessed with huge amounts of raw power.

England have a lot of power, with the likes of Billy Vunipola, Sinckler, Itoje, Mako Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Curry. There is a lot of brute force in there. I don’t think Wales have as much.

“Now England need forward momentum. They need big power up the middle and big power up front in order to look their best, because they are not used to playing on the back foot. They are not very good at turning nothing into something.

“One of the reasons they destroyed New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final was because their forward pack just butchered the All Blacks. The power was just brutal. Against Ireland in the autumn, brutal power. Just crunched them.

“But if you can match that, we have seen what happens.

“You are almost looking at a Goran Ivanisevic situation with England at the moment. He needed big serves to go in. But if you have got an Andre Agassi who actually manages to get his best serves back, he ain’t winning too often. You have got a serve and volley team there in England really,

“If you look at their primary ball carrier, Billy Vunipola, he is a very hard man to do a job on. He is a relentless ball carrier. He just goes and goes and goes. He will continue to demand the ball and continue running at defenders. So he is hard work. But if you have got the right men in the team, you can, at the moment, keep him reasonably quiet, because he hasn’t played much. Scotland did that. It’s not easy to repeat, but it is possible.

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“The thing is though, England have got other world class ball carriers in Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler and Luke Cowan-Dickie. You’ve then got Maro Itoje who is a very high-class ball carrier, while Courtney Lawes’ carrying is 50 times better than it was five years ago. He is a very effective yard maker.

“So you can give someone a man marking job on Billy, but then you’ve got to deal with all the other carriers.

“If you just concentrate on one threat, there is power everywhere for England.

“However, on paper, England couldn’t be outmuscled against Scotland, but they were.

“And, on paper, Wales couldn’t beat Scotland, but they did.

“So who knows who is going to win the game?

“If Wales can get themselves into the right place psychologically they are absolutely capable of dulling England’s blade a bit and softening the hammer blows.

“It’s just when they have the ball, do they have the power to smash England to bits in the carry?

“England just have guys who repeatedly carry more effectively than the Welsh forwards do.

“Once Wales get the ball, they’ve got to do some banging and clanging of their own. I hope they produce it because it will make it a much better game.

“I enjoy watching this Welsh team and I would love it if they were awesome against England. I know I am English, but I don’t really care who wins, I just hope it’s a good crack for an hour and a half.”

Lawrence Dallaglio



England great Lawrence Dallaglio

England great Lawrence Dallaglio has been giving his thoughts on the Times’ Ruck Rugby podcast.

“From a Welsh perspective, I guess they go into this game not having played particularly well, but yet they have come away from two matches with two wins,” said the ex-back rower.

“That is probably down to individual brilliance rather than anything collectively from the team.

“As for England, they just haven’t started this Six Nations really. Scotland outplayed them all over the park in the opening game. Let’s just forget about the Italy game, not least because England were woeful and Italy are even more woeful.

“We are all just wondering what changes, if any, Eddie Jones will make for what looks like a really tricky fixture going down to Cardiff.

“England need a new injection of energy in their team at the moment.”

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Brian Moore

Former England and Lions hooker Brian Moore ran the rule over the contest that lies ahead on the BBC’s Rugby Special show.

“If England keep 15 players on the field, it will be the first time that Wales have played against 15 players for 80 minutes,” he said.

“We will see then whether there has been an element of luck in there or whether the talents of Louis Rees-Zammit and the players that came on against Scotland are a bit of a new dawn and Wayne Pivac has turned the corner. We will see.

“With England, while they have scored six tries, the individual brilliance of Watson and May has papered over cracks.

“You have got passes not going to hand and the ones that do go to hand are passes behind and stop passes. That is not a side that’s playing with any sort of fluency.

“And they need that because if they don’t have that, they can’t put consistent threats anywhere on the field.”

Matt Dawson

Pundit Matt Dawson, the former England scrum-half, laid out his thoughts in his BBC column.

“England had so many opportunities against Italy, but they made hard work of it. There does not seem to be an attacking instinct about them,” he said.

“They do not seem to be able to run the lines and fool the opposition so that there is a lovely clean line break. They seem to be quite predictable.

“I am not convinced they are being coached well enough in their sessions day to day.

“We have been told we are going to see an attacking side now and England have changed their emphasis to attack.

“Every single team practises both defence and attack and England have made a meal out of it. I find it nonsense.

“England want to be the greatest team of all time. How on earth do they think they are going to be the greatest team of all time if they have not been practising their attack? That does not make sense to me.

“France, Wales and Scotland – teams that do all their attack and defence in training – are hitting their straps in this Six Nations. They understand their running lines and have moves to break teams down

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“It is all connected and they are in sync with one another. England do not look in sync. I am hoping that is going to progress over the next couple of weeks – but England have been slow out of the blocks.”

Jeremy Guscott



Former England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott

Meanwhile, ex-England centre Jeremy Guscott has been waxing lyrical about “the brilliance” of Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit following his two-try display against Scotland.

“It’s just fantastic to see such a young player, innocent, who just wants the ball in his hands to show the world and his team-mates and us what he can do,” he said on the BBC.

“His interview after the game was brilliant. He’s living the dream, it’s absolutely wonderful to see.

“His second try was absolutely excellent. It was pure speed, To execute that kick running at that pace with such touch was absolutely beautiful.

“You can get too eager as a young person thinking you can see it all in front of me. But when he said ‘I saw the space behind and I stuck it on my boot’, what he’s thinking about in that short space of time, that’s brilliant. To see that pure pace and the skill and the touch at that pace is just wonderful to watch.”

Danny Care

Turning to a current player, international scrum-half Danny Care has given his prediction on the BBC rugby union weekly podcast.

“I think England are going to shut a few people up,” said the 84-cap Harlequins star.

“Lots has been said about them and I think they will take that out and hopefully put in a great performance.

“They haven’t hit their straps like we know they can, but if they play as well as they can do, they are a better team than Wales.

“I am going England by five to eight points.”

Ugo Monye

Former England wing Ugo Monye joined Care on the BBC podcast to have his say.

“This game is massive. It’s just so big,” he said.

“Wales are up for the Triple Crown, England have still got a few questions to answer. They haven’t quite been at it in the opening two matches. I am buzzing for this weekend, I really am, I am so excited.

“England to win.”

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