England face a crunch fixture in the Six Nations this weekend with Wales, here are five things they must do to ensure victory…
1.Avoid giving away daft penalties in key areas
One lesson that clearly hasn’t been learnt since the World Cup is that of discipline, particularly in key areas. Against Ireland, England were guilty of giving away daft penalties both in attack and defence that lost them important field position and gave away cheap points. At present Wales are a much stronger side than Ireland and will punish such ill discipline much more heavily, especially if players get themselves yellow carded like Haskell and Care did in the second half.
2.Ignore ‘the Welsh factor’
Whilst there will be the temptation to hype up the team based on the opposition, this must not be seen as an opportunity for revenge after the World Cup. Instead the side must go into the game with cool heads so they can maintain their composure and ensure no more costly mistakes are made (like kicking to the corner). This may also help clamp down on any potential ill discipline and ensure England keep fifteen players on the field at all times.
3.Make the set piece a priority in the first 60
The Welsh set piece is amongst the strongest in Europe right now, and with the personnel they have available, they have become master disruptors of opposition ball, particularly in mauls. England must therefore opt to start their strongest set piece players with a view to at least ensuring parity in the scrum and good competition at the line out, before other players can be brought on in the second half to impact the game in the loose.
4.Show more composure in the Welsh 22
It wasn’t just ill discipline that led England down in the Irish 22 last time around, it was just a general lack of composure with speculative passes being thrown. Against a defence as well organised as Wales, it is vital England’s half backs in particular show more composure when in a try scoring position. Wales have shown they are masters of wearing down opposition offences in their own half, so England cannot afford to butcher any chances they get.
5.Select a bench that can make an impact
Whilst England’s replacements in the forwards have made an impact in every game so far, the replacement backs have had little to no opportunity to make a statement other than at scrum half. Jones must therefore be bold in his selection on the bench, and choose players he is prepared to bring on with more than twenty minutes to go who can make a real difference. This will help ensure they can fight back into the game against a strong Welsh bench in necessary.