Expect blood, thunder and the form book to be thrown out the window.
We’re just three matches in to the 2019 Six Nations and yet this meaty contest between Wales and England is already being hyped as the Grand Slam decider.
England, having plundered a maximum 10 points and 10 tries from their first two games with Ireland and France, head to Cardiff’s Principality Stadium fizzing with confidence.
Wales, meanwhile, have good reason to be similarly assured. Wins over France and Italy have taken them to 11 consecutive victories on the bounce, matching a record that has stood since 1910.
Yet so far in the Six Nations they’ve looked a long way shy of their best. And their 21-16 win from behind in 2017 – albeit against a Welsh side with assistant coach Rob Howley in charge with Gatland enjoying a post-Lions sabbatical.
If that all stacks heavily in England’s favour, it shouldn’t be forgotten Wales haven’t been beaten at home since the All Blacks won in November 2017, vanquishing France, Australia and South Africa twice in the meantime.
It’s all change for Wales, with 11 different starters from the second string that beat Italy. Most notably, Gatland has plucked for the more attacking Gareth Anscombe at fly-half in place of the vastly experienced Dan Biggar.
It’s a move that suggests Wales will look to play fast, expansive rugby to overcome England’s aggressive defence, opting for invention over caution.
It’s a bold move which should produce plenty of opportunity for tries – if successful, for Wales; if unsuccessful, for the visitors, by the bucketload.
Hoping to get in on the action will be England’s returning winger Jack Nowell, in for the injured Chris Ashton, but it’s hard to look past Jonny May on the opposite flank for the first or anytime tryscorer.
The 28-year-old is in the form of his life, with 12 tries in his past 12 tests, including a blistering 30-minute hattrick against France in his last runout.
It’s England’s to lose. Try as he might, Eddie Jones can’t convince the bookmakers to price England as the underdogs.
Instead they’re 8/15 favourites – a popular bet with Paddy Power that gets more tempting if you back England to win both halves at 11/10 or better yet if you back Wales to lead at half-time and England to clinch it at 11/2.
Looking at the choice of fly-half it’s hard to look past the visitors. England’s Owen Farrell has his backline purring and is deadly from the tee, while Anscombe is less likely to punish England from penalties.
Combined with their most recent form and England’s confidence in Cardiff, it all adds up to an England win – with victory by 1-10 points at 21/10 with Betfair a smart move.
But whatever happens, make sure you’re not late for kick-off.
England have scored a try within the opening four minutes of their last five tests – and in a remarkable eight of the past 14 since the start of 2018.
You can expect another blistering start from the visitors in front of the baying partisan Principality Stadium crowd – but this time Wales will be ready to fight fire with fire.
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