Gavin Hastings has come out and said the changes England are making ahead of their World Cup Pool A clash with Wales, shows England are panicking, but as a fellow from a rival nation, he’s playing a smart little game. Is that what he truly believes? England aren’t panicking in any way, shape or form. This is what England were probably thinking about from a while ago. They know Wales bring a physical in-your-face defence, and now the Welsh might have to re-think how to defend against the English. Head Coach Stuart Lancaster is very particular and very methodically. He doesn’t make rash decisions.
Starting Sam Burgess and Owen Farrell give England a hard-nosed edge in Saturday’s 8.00pm game at Twickenham. Burgess is a champion. It might be in a different sport, but that charisma and mentality can easily translate into other competition. It’s the attitude and DNA of a champion that is unique and Burgess has it.
Welsh centre Jamie Roberts will be facing Sam Burgess, and he is clearly far more experienced in rugby union than Sam. It’s not like Sam is a player who has played ten years of rugby union and only just earned his caps, this is a completely different scenario. Sometimes the new young gun coming into a team is going to provide more energy and more aggression than somebody who has 70 caps. But this is different, because of Burgess’ lack of union experience. Wales may try and exploit this, but it could also be one of Sam’s strengths. He’s a smart lad, and if you run in his vicinity you are going to get hit. And hit hard. It’s the kind of contact Jamie Roberts is probably not used to, so it’s going to be an intriguing battle between the two of them.
Owen Farrell fronts up in the big games, and although people claim he hasn’t the same skill set as George Ford, he’s done some tricky little things in training and he works extremely hard. He is a tough guy who lives for the big occasion so he’ll thrive against Wales.
From seeing how George Ford handles his business, and from getting to know him better in the camps, the news that he’s been dropped for this match won’t affect him in a detrimental way. He’ll still be a very positive part of the team this week. He could be called upon after one minute or he might have to come on and decide the game at the end. He has a mindset to make sure he stays on his game. He’s very meticulous and he trains very hard. He’ll be disappointed but this won’t affect his game.
What better test for England than to have a World Cup clash against your biggest rivals? The intensity and pressure that England feel is put on themselves. We play at that level against every team at every level. The Welsh passion is part of why Wales have been successful over the years, but for England, it’s about bettering themselves every day in training. The biggest challenge for England is how seriously physical it is going to be.
Some of the English and Welsh lads are friends, but that won’t stop the huge hits coming. Sometimes when you see two young brothers scrap, they seriously go for each other. That doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. The rivalry with Wales is so passionate because of how close the two teams are. This will only add to the intensity.
This game could be decided in the forward packs. You try and match the teams against each other, and although they look fairly even, England may just edge it. The midfield battle then, between 10, 12, and 13 is a seriously intriguing contest. Everyone is looking forward to that match-up. England should nick it, but the one thing you can guarantee is some serious physical play.
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