Talking points ahead of England’s clash with Wales
England’s build-up to this autumn’s World Cup begins in earnest on Sunday when Wales visit Twickenham in the first of four preparation Tests leading into Japan 2019.
Here, PA examines five talking points for the game.
England have not even departed for the Far East yet and already evidence of internal strife has emerged. Ben Te’o and Mike Brown were involved in a scuffle during a social event at the squad’s training camp in Treviso last week and were jettisoned for this Wales game as a result. Details are sketchy and perspective needed when assessing the significance of the incident, but it proves there is not harmony throughout the squad.
Openside experiment foiled
A triple injury blow on the eve of the match has seen centre Henry Slade, flanker Sam Underhill and wing Ruaridh McConnochie ruled out. Underhill is the most prominent of these as Eddie Jones had hoped to see him play in tandem with Tom Curry. Both are specialist opensides and by picking them together, the back row would have been given an injection of dynamism.
England are in a bind at scrum-half, where there is no obvious hierarchy below first choice Ben Youngs, but the vacuum has created an opportunity for New Zealander Willi Heinz. The uncapped 32-year-old, who qualifies through his maternal grandmother, has been catapulted into the frame for World Cup selection on the strength of a strong season at Gloucester knowing he is bound for Japan if he delivers against Wales.
Wales at full bore
In a surprise selection, Wales head coach Warren Gatland has picked his strongest available team numbering 13 starters from the Grand Slam-clinching victory over Ireland in March. Meanwhile, England have picked a largely fringe team led by George Ford that could be swept aside if Wales start their World Cup preparations with a bang.
Take a bow Alun Wyn
It may only be a World Cup warm-up match but it will be an occasion that lives long in the memory of Alun Wyn Jones, who will become Wales’ most-capped player with 135 international appearances including nine for the Lions. Gatland has led the tributes to a modern great who could be lifting the World Cup this autumn.