Sky Sports Rugby’s resident stats guru, Rhodri Jeremiah, takes a closer look at all the stats ahead of Wales vs England in the Six Nations this weekend!
History on England’s side…just!
Come Saturday afternoon at 4.45pm, all eyes will be on the Principality Stadium in Cardiff when Wales play England. In terms of rivalry, it doesn’t get any more intense than this, all the pre-match mind games will have played out and all the talking will have been done, but who will walk the walk?
Wales have played England on 131 occasions in history, won 57, lost 62 and drawn 12. In Cardiff, they’ve faced each other 46 times with Wales winning 28 of those encounters, England winning 16 and two draws being played out.
In terms of the Six Nations, England have won the last five matches between the two sides but they’ve all been tight games with England’s biggest margin of victory being +11 in 2014 when they ran out 29-18 victors at Twickenham.
Cardiff 2013 a Wales day to remember
Wales’ last victory over England in the tournament came in 2013 when they recorded a 30-3 win at the Principality Stadium to clinch the title from under Red Rose noses. That was Wales’ biggest margin of victory over England in the competition to date. England failed to score a try on that day – that doesn’t happen very often!
In that fixture in 2013, Wales had 63% possession and 65% territory, made 144 carries, 406 metres and beat 23 defenders. By comparison, England made just 98 carries, 417 metres and beat 11 defenders. England’s ill-discipline was a contributing factor in that defeat too as they conceded 12 penalties compared to Wales’ seven.
In this year’s Six Nations, England have been dominant both in attack and defence. In attack, they’ve scored the most tries (10) and the most points (76) whilst in defence, they’ve conceded the fewest tries (3) and fewest points (28). Alarmingly, Wales have only scored five tries in the opening two fixtures – half of England’s amount.
England’s tackling machine and kicking game-plan
England’s Mark Wilson has been the top performer when it comes to tackling. He’s made the most tackles in this year’s tournament so far with 47 – twenty more than Wales’ top tackler Josh Navidi who’s made 27.
England’s dominant tackling has been a key feature in their performances and England’s defence coach John Mitchell must take credit for that. On Saturday, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top between Mitchell and Wales’ defence coach Shaun Edwards as Wales will no doubt pose a bigger threat up front to England than France did.
England’s in-play kicking game has been on-point in the opening two games with Owen Farrell orchestrating proceedings from fly-half and Jonny May catching every high ball under the sun. If Wales are to challenge England on Saturday, they’ll need to better England’s kicking game, put the ball behind England’s back-three and get them counter-attacking from deep inside their own 22.
When Wales won in 2013, they had 69% possession and 72% territory in the second half. Farrell and May have proved their worth against Ireland and France and have rightly deserved the plaudits, but playing in front of 74,500 spectators at the Principality Stadium is a totally different scenario.
If England execute the same game plan successfully and have an armchair ride like they did against the French, there’ll only be one winner, and England, in Eddie Jones’ words, will have beaten the ‘greatest Wales team ever.’
But if Wales match England up front and play with invention behind, there’s every chance that Warren Gatland’s men will still be on course for a Grand Slam and will have beaten their previous record of 11 victories on the bounce.
All the talk at the moment is about preparing for the World Cup in Japan. Come 4.45pm in Cardiff on Saturday, Japan will be the last thing on those players’ minds – it’ll all be about those eighty minutes and wanting to get one over their arch-rivals. Game on.