Five reasons why...Wales will beat England
March 14, 2013
Will Leigh Halfpenny propel Wales to Six Nations glory? © PA Photos
On the eve of the Six Nations title decider between Grand Slam-chasing England and defending champions Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, we debate which side will take the glory.
To kick things off, ESPNscrum assistant editor Tom Hamilton offers five reasons why he thinks Wales will be celebrating come full time.
Wales' defence is immense
Wales started the Six Nations by letting in three tries against Ireland but they have not conceded one since. England's record is almost exactly the opposite having scored four on the opening weekend but only once in the three games that followed. If England continue to show the same wastefulness which they did against Italy - on one occasion squandering a five-man overlap - then Wales' defensive line will hardly be troubled.
'Hymns and Arias'
There are few grounds better than the Millennium Stadium on a match day. The hoards of red pack themselves in with all manner of daffodil-based costumes dotted around the 74,500-capacity ground. And the Welsh faithful will be up for this. Drawing inspiration from 1999 when Scott Gibbs scuppered England's Slam bid with a last-gasp try, Wales will hope to pile more misery on their cross-Severn rivals on Saturday and secure their second Six Nations trophy in as many years.
The majority of the current crop of Wales players know what it takes to cope with the pressure-cooker of the Six Nations. Eleven of the starting line-up for their match against Scotland got the nod in the Grand Slam-decider last year against France. And 11 also played in their World Cup semi-final loss to France in 2011. Contrast this with England - using the line-up that played against France as an example, just four started in their World Cup quarter-final loss to Les Bleus in 2011. Experience can have a massive bearing on games so expect Wales to drum up every last ounce from their lessons of yesteryear.
Demons to bury
Oh how that opening round defeat to Ireland would have hurt the Welsh players. Before each championship, supporters are guilty of dreaming of success. Even the Azzurri were handed the unlikely glimmer of hope when their team defeated pre-tournament favourites France in round one. But for Wales, any visions of that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow were brutally shattered in 32 minutes against Ireland. The men wearing emerald green ran in three tries with veteran Brian O'Driscoll pulling the strings in the middle of the field. The Wales team and their fans will be looking to put those ghosts to bed and England will give them the perfect opportunity to achieve this.
If Halfpenny does not claim the Six Nations Player of the Championship honour then expect outcry from Wales and all those who appreciate world-class play. He is up there with Italy's Sergio Parisse in terms of being a talismanic presence for his side. He very rarely has an off-day and even if the rest of his team are struggling, then Halfpenny more often than not can get the game by the scruff of its neck and swing it back in Wales' favour. He is the tournament's top points scorer with 62 including a try. He will inevitably have some say in the outcome of Saturday's match but it could be a contribution that swings the match in Wales' favour.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby
Huw Richards Rewinds to 1975 when three Welsh legends were handed their debuts and assesses their legacy
Seven places in the Champions Cup quarter-finals are up for grabs; we break down the permutations for each group in the final round of matches