Six Nations: England against Wales will be 'a game of chess'

By Chris Jones & Louise GwilliamBBC Sport
Elliot Daly and Alex Cuthbertson
Elliot Daly's late try gave England a narrow 21-16 victory over Wales in Cardiff in last year's Six Nations
Six Nations 2018: England v Wales
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 10 February Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales & BBC Radio Cymru. Live text commentary and report on the BBC website and app.

The battle between England and Wales at Twickenham on Saturday will be "like a game of chess", according to Wales centre Jamie Roberts.

England have not lost a home game under head coach Eddie Jones, but his Wales counterpart Warren Gatland has secured three wins there in the last 10 years.

And Roberts, a guest on the Rugby Union Weekly podcast, says Wales will be "quietly confident".

"I'm massively excited. This is a huge game for the Welsh people," he said.

Here BBC Sport analyses where the highly anticipated Six Nations clash will be won and lost.

Mindset: 'You need perfect focus at Twickenham'

Six Nations: Jamie Roberts and Ugo Monye look ahead to England against Wales

Wales have an extra day's preparation before Saturday's 16:45 GMT kick-off at Twickenham.

England did not arrive back to their Surrey training base until Monday afternoon after winning in Rome, while Wales beat Scotland at home in Cardiff two days earlier.

"Warren Gatland will play on that travel factor," Roberts said.

"He'll make sure the lads are aware of the fact England have two days less preparation than Wales, as they played a day later and had a travel day.

"The weekend is about clarity, hard work in the week, and delivering for 80 minutes on Saturday. You talk about focus, you need perfect focus at Twickenham."

Attack: 'Saturday will be about speed of ball'

Winning the battle of the breakdown and securing quick ball will be pivotal. Eddie Jones will want England's forwards to punch holes and allow playmakers George Ford and Owen Farrell to run the show, again.

"Saturday will be about the speed of ball," Roberts said.

"When England get a bit of momentum, they thrive on quick ball. It's about which team can produce the quickest ball to create the biggest problems."

Wales' attacking stats against Scotland

Wales, meanwhile, have been experimenting with a high-tempo off-load game, which worked to devastating effect against the Scots.

"Wales' handling against Scotland was impressive," Roberts said.

"Those little tip passes, drawing players out of the line and putting players on the inside shoulder of the next defender, these are all crucial parts in the cog of creating space.

"You watch the All Blacks set the standard with how they do that - they manipulate defences with forwards coming in threes.

"When you've got the likes of [fly-half] Rhys Patchell playing flat to the line and picking those crisp, flat, hard passes on the gain line, it's almost impossible to defend against as you've got three or four players in motion.

"There's now a confidence in the Wales team to offload. That will stand them in good stead, but they won't have the freedom to play as much rugby against England."

Defence: Line speed v kicking game

Paul Gustard and Shaun Edwards
England defence coach Paul Gustard (left) was brought in by Eddie Jones in 2015, while Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards (right) joined their set-up on a part-time basis in 2008 before signing a permanent deal in 2011

Both England and Wales are famed for an aggressive defensive line and Saturday will throw up another fascinating battle between the respective defensive gurus, Paul Gustard for England and Shaun Edwards for Wales.

But while Wales did not concede a point for 79 minutes against Scotland, England were stretched on a handful of occasions in Rome.

"England bought a lot of line speed at the weekend in defence," Roberts said.

"Their first five of six defenders were really flying off the line. Wales will try and attack outside of that. They'll look to play to width and hope those England outside defenders sit off.

"England will have less space than against Italy, so I think they will kick early. We'll see more attacking kicks, cross-field kicks, little chip and chases, just to slow the line speed and counter the Wales defence.

"Choke tackling was a real strong tactic of Wales last year. England are without Vunipola, but players like Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola, require a two-man tackle. One goes high, one low, slowing the ball down and not allowing them get to ground quickly to produce that speed of ball."

The teams: 'You need Test match players'

Mike Brown and Leigh Halfpenny
The inclusion of Mike Brown and Leigh Halfpenny has been the subject of heated debate over the past few years

One of the most influential players on the opening weekend was Wales' Leigh Halfpenny, who scored his first international tries in five years.

The full-back, like his opposite number Mike Brown, has received criticism for his style of play by those who prefer flair players like Anthony Watson and Liam Williams.

But former England winger Ugo Monye says both Halfpenny and Brown will be key contributors at Twickenham.

"I find it quite interesting that Halfpenny is playing up against Brown and they're two guys who are brilliant players, but get criticism.

"You need someone to be solid at the back with decision-making, under the aerial ball, defensively really sound and with a monster boot. You need these guys in games like this."

Roberts agrees, adding both full-backs are "Test match players", who deliver when the stakes are highest.

"We talk about the difference between club players and international players. Brown and Halfpenny are guys who can handle pressure and deliver basic skills repeatedly, time after time, at the highest level."

History: Gatland's record at Twickenham

Eddie Jones and Warren Gatland
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has three wins from eight matches at Twickenham since he took over in 2007

England may have won the last three encounters against Wales, including a last-gasp victory in Cardiff this time last year, but Wales head coach Warren Gatland is no stranger to causing an upset.

In the past decade, Wales have won three times at Twickenham - in the Grand Slam years of 2008 and 2012, and during the group stages of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Italy, Ireland, Scotland and France have one win between them in that time.

And Wales' squad on Saturday boasts 10 players who played a part in those victories.

Wales players in their matchday squad who have beaten England at Twickenham
Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, Tomas Francis, Bradley Davies, Justin Tipuric, Gareth Davies, Scott Williams, George North, Leigh Halfpenny.

And Roberts, who was part of the victories in 2012 and 2015, says this will give the Wales camp the belief they can win.

"Gatland will give them a confidence and he'll say 'look guys there's a lot of players here who have won at Twickenham in the past', whether that's in 2012 or 2015. I think the players believe they can win there. "


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