There’s nothing better than the Six Nations tournament being decided on the last day, between the two sides still in the title race, as undefeated, Grand Slam chasing England are visiting Wales at the Millennium Stadium, who need more than just any kind of win to win the title for the second consecutive time.
Any English win or draw will give the title to England. A defeat by six points or less would be enough to capture the Six Nations title as well. If England lose by seven points but outscore Wales by three tries or more, it’ll be enough to win the title. A Wales victory by seven points, providing they stay ahead of England on tournament tries is going to be enough for them, as would any win, regardless of the try situation, by eight points or more.
Wales will have their third captain of the competition as Gareth Jenkins (#1) is back from his injury, taking over for Ryan Jones, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury. Justin Tipuric moves to openside flanker instead of Jones, with Sam Warburton switching to blindside flanker. The rest of the changes come on the bench: Paul James replacing Ryan Bevington and flanker Aaron Shingler featuring instead of a promoted Tipuric.
For England, who used an unusual lineup against Italy in a game that did become a little bit tricky for them, it’s about a lot of changes as well since week 4. Owen Farrell, hopefully 100% fit again and gunning for player of the tournament honors, is back at fly-half, dropping Toby Flood to the bench; Ben Youngs moves to Scrum-Half instead of Danny Care. Joe Marler is in the lineup at loosehead prop for Mako Vunipola, while James Haskell is dropped to the bench for Tom Croft, making his first start in a year. Joe Launchbury has recovered from an elbow injury and will partner Geoff Parling in the second row.
The interesting matchup, with a lot of Lions implications, will be between Sam Warburton and Chris Robshaw, arguably the most consistent player in this year’s tournament, at openside flanker. Leigh Halfpenny needs to push Farrell away as well to ensure his place to the tour in Australia.
England haven’t completed a Grand Slam since 2003, and have messed their chances of the clean sweep quite a few times over the years, including during their last title win in 2011, losing to Ireland in Dublin. They have won on their last visit to Cardiff, and the sides are 5-5 in their last 10 Six Nations meetings.
Predictions – England, when using their strongest lineup, have been consistent, physical, and at times very enjoyable, but most of all clinical and unphased. Wales have had plenty of ups and downs in the tournament, but seem to improve with every passing match. This one looks like the kind of match decided by less than 7 points, and England’s advantage at centre, with Tuilagi and Barritt in an excellent tournament, should be a bit too much for the Welsh.