Wales tackle fierce rivals England in the Six Nations at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday.
Here, we look at some of the main talking points heading into a key fixture in this season’s tournament.
Wales can take pole position in title race
Unbeaten Wales, Grand Slam champions two years ago, will take a firm grip on this season’s tournament if they topple England. And that would represent an impressive revival following their 2020 form that produced just three victories from 10 Tests under new head coach Wayne Pivac. Given that Wales’ next game after England is Italy in Rome, which should be a five-point maximum for Pivac’s team, they would potentially open up a significant lead on their rivals, especially if England defeat France at Twickenham the same day. There is a long way to go in the title race, but Wales have strongly positioned themselves.
Wings set to take centre-stage
In terms of box-office attractions on Saturday, look no further than England wings Anthony Watson and Jonny May and their opposite numbers Josh Adams and Louis Rees-Zammit. It is not beyond the realms that all four could be in the British and Irish Lions squad to face South Africa this summer if those Tests go ahead. Between them, they have amassed 70 tries in 146 Test matches, with May now second on England’s all-time list behind Rory Underwood, and his Gloucester colleague Rees-Zammit having burst on to the international scene with a memorable double against Scotland a fortnight ago. Watson and Adams also have proven world-class finishing skills, so there is plenty to be excited about.
Will the red mist descend on Cardiff?
Wales’ opening Six Nations games saw opposition players sent off in Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony and Scotland prop Zander Fagerson. O’Mahony was dismissed for a shoulder-led hit to the head of Wales prop Tomas Francis, while Fagerson departed following a dangerous ruck clear-out. Red cards also abounded in last weekend’s Gallagher Premiership action, with four players banished for head contact incidents. Players and referee Pascal Gauzere will be under the spotlight on Saturday, and Frenchman Gauzere is no stranger to sending players packing, having done it more times – seven – than any other referee in Tests.
England’s big names need to perform
England have made little impact on this season’s Six Nations so far, suffering a first home defeat against Scotland for 38 years and then putting away tournament no-hopers Italy with little panache. Head coach Eddie Jones’ team selections have come under scrutiny, especially his continued faith in the likes of captain Owen Farrell, full-back Elliot Daly and number eight Billy Vunipola. It is fair to say that all three need big games in Cardiff, providing key moments for their team that have been sadly lacking, or even Jones might run out of patience when he ponders his options to face France at Twickenham on March 13.
George North – 100 not out
Wales wing North will make rugby union history on Saturday when at the age of 28 years and 320 days he becomes the youngest player to win 100 caps for their country. He is the sixth Welshman to reach a century, and he continues to score tries for fun, having amassed 42 for Wales and needing one to equal Shane Williams’ Welsh Six Nations record of 22 touchdowns. North made his Test debut as an 18-year-old wing in 2010, and he is now operating at outside centre, spearheading the back division and providing a continued, considerable challenge for opposition defences. North is already established as one of Wales’ finest players, and there is no sign of him slowing up.