Wednesday 16 January 2019

Gatland goading dangerous tactic

This could be termed a match of mouth against muscle as Warren Gatland's goading of Dylan Hartley was designed to test the character of the volatile England hooker.

In the past, Gatland has made a rod for his back by making outlandish statements that are eaten up by the media and spat out by the opposition.

Undoubtedly, the loss of British & Irish Lions props Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins has softened the Welsh scrum. It is an area of weakness sure to be pressured by England's front three of Andrew Sheridan, Hartley and Dan Cole.

While England did click into top gear against Australia in November, they were made to pay for their 'Eureka' moment by the battle-hardened Springboks.

They do not have it made yet. But, there is a growing list of young players pushing the old stagers for game time and, as Brian O'Driscoll will attest, there is nothing like stiff competition to strengthen resolve.

If Wales can make their superiority in skill pay dividends away from England's grinding forwards they should have enough in them to get the job done.

Verdict: Wales

Wales: J Hook; M Stoddart, J Roberts, J Davies, S Williams; S Jones, M Phillips; P James, M Rees (capt), C Mitchell, B Davies, A-W Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton, A Powell.

England: B Foden; C Ashton, M Tindall (capt), S Hape, M Cueto; T Flood, B Youngs; A Sheridan, D Hartley, D Cole, L Deacon, T Palmer, T Wood, J Haskell, N Easter.

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