Wales v England: Everything you need to know

Updated: 

In perhaps the most eagerly anticipated fixture of the 2017 Six Nations, Wales host England at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

England head coach Eddie Jones has vetoed the home side's wish for the stadium roof to be closed, the Australian also claiming the Welsh resort to underhand tactics whenever their neighbours come to town.

Jones saw his defending champions struggle to an opening 19-16 win over France at Twickenham, only sealed with Ben Te'o's late try, while Wales were well below par for 40 minutes in Italy before an excellent second-half showing saw them come away with a 33-7 success.

Jones has made two alterations to his side - flanker Jack Clifford and wing Jack Nowell replacing Tom Wood and Jonny May - while Rob Howley has swapped props Nicky Smith and Samson Lee for Rob Evans and Tomas Francis.

Dan Biggar and George North, who both picked up injuries in Rome, have been named in the starting XV for Saturday but Howley has not guaranteed their fitness, with Sam Davies impressing in Biggar's place in the second period in Rome.

 

HEAD TO HEAD

Wales: 57
England: 60
Draw: 12

 

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2016?

England staved off a second-half fightback from Wales to prevail 25-21 at Twickenham.

Leading 16-0 at half-time, England were made to sweat by their visitors, who scored three tries in the second period, only for the boot of Owen Farrell to keep them at bay.

The win made it four from four for England, who went on to complete a first grand slam since 2003 with victory against France in Paris in the final round.

 

KEY PLAYERS

Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
Some thought Halfpenny should have been left out of the XV to face Italy last week, with calls for Liam Williams to be given the full-back shirt instead. But Halfpenny proved his worth to the side, kicking Wales into a 12-7 lead having trailed 7-0, providing the platform for the backs to run amok and secure a handsome victory. With the clash in Cardiff likely to be a tight affair and Biggar returning from injury, the boot of Halfpenny could be crucial for the hosts.

Maro Itoje (England)
With Wales enjoying an embarrassment of riches in the back row, Itoje and co will have their work cut out at the breakdown. The trio of Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty represent a fearsome challenge for Itoje, who will need to deliver another world-class performance if England are to continue their winning run.

 

THE LINE-UPS

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Liam Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.

England: Mike Brown, Jack Nowell, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley (captain), Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford, Nathan Hughes.

 

COACH COMMENTS

Rob Howley (Wales): "They [North and Biggar] are two experienced players, they are important players for us - George in the wide channels and Dan through his experience and leadership. It's a big game, both players want to be part of that team as you'd expect. George hasn't done too much training this week but Dan's done a couple of sessions."

Eddie Jones (England): "Wales to me are a bit like South Africa, where the support is absolutely fever pitch. Rugby means such a lot. You go to the hotel and unless you do things [to prevent it], players get rung incessantly through the night. You go to the ground and the traffic controller [on your bus] drives slower than actual traffic to make sure you are late."

 

OPTA STATS

- England have won five of the last seven encounters between these teams in the Six Nations, including each of their last three, though their most recent two wins in that run came by five points or fewer.

- Wales have won each of their last four Six Nations home games; the last time they won more consecutive games at home was from 2007 to 2009 (five wins).

- Victory for England would make it their ninth Six Nations win in a row, equalling their longest ever streak since Italy joined the competition (2002-2004).

- George North has scored in his last five Six Nations games; no player has ever scored in six in a row in the Five or Six Nations.