So what can we expect from Saturday’s clash between these two great Northern Hemisphere rivals? Well, the pundits will certainly be backing the men in white (black?) with their home ground advantage and recent resurgence in form. England have been on a steady upward climb, having triumphed in the 6 nations earlier this year and only narrowly losing out on the Grand Slam with a defeat at the hands of the Irish. Oh yes…the black stuff flowed freely on the streets of Dublin that day! Looking at the England line-up you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the Barbarians taking to the field, with the likes of Manusamoa Tuilagi set to make his debut.
Warren Gatland’s Welsh team have not been at their best of late, but they hate the English as much as everyone else so will be trying their darndest to cause an upset. The team has also struggled with their off-field discipline, with the likes of Gavin Henson focusing on his career in reality tv (not having to do his own make up makes a nice change) and scrum-half Mike ‘Burger Boy’ Phillips having been suspended indefinitely for a late-night fracas outside a McDonalds in Cardiff. Phillips’ happy-meal soon turned sad when a bouncer refused him entry and he was forced to eat the pavement instead. I know what you’re thinking…bouncers at McDonalds? How bloody ‘hard’ is Cardiff??
There’s also more at stake than mere pride, with both nations making their final RWC team selections later this month, there are a number of players who will be out to impress the selectors. In particular Charlie Hodgson at No.10 (or the guy least likely to be the new face of Wilkinson Sword) will be hoping to book a place in the first class lounge with Wilkinson and Toby Flood. England find themselves in a relatively easy RWC group, with potentially only Argentina or Scotland set to give them a hard time. Whereas, Wales have the likes of the Boks, Samoa and Fiji to look forward to….happy daze!
The other Northern Hemisphere clash this weekend will be the Scots hosting the Irish…well that one’s a no brainer really.