England losing pieces whilst Wales look very confident
England prop David Wilson has been ruled out of Friday’s RBS 6 Nations opener against Wales, but Dan Cole is available after recovering from his foot injury. Wilson will miss the Millennium Stadium showdown after conceding defeat in his battle with a neck problem and is set to be replaced at tighthead by Cole. England prop David Wilson has become the ninth front-line international to have been ruled out of Friday’s RBS 6 Nations opener against Wales alongside the likes of: Owen Farrell, the most experienced fly-half in the squad, who suffered a left knee ligament injury during Saracens’ European Champions Cup defeat at Clermont and is out of the entire Six Nations. Joe Launchbury, Second row who undertook neck surgery in December which has ruled Launchbury out of the whole tournament. The athletic lock, a first-choice pick in his position, also missed the autumn series with the same injury.
Ben Morgan, Number eight, who was man of the series in November’s QBE Internationals, had ankle surgery after being carried off against Saracens last month and is out of the tournament. Manu Tuilagi, Centre, will be missed as the powerful presence of Tuilagi sparks fear in the opposition, but because of a chronic groin condition he first suffered in October he looks a doubt for most of the tournament. Brad Barritt, Centre, only recently recovered from foot surgery, has a knee ligament strain but it is hoped he will be available to face Italy on Valentine’s Day. Kyle Eastmond, Centre, aggravated a shoulder injury in the final weekend of European club action and no date has been set for his return. Geoff Parling, Second Row, damaged his knee ligaments against Ulster and is expected to be out for at least half of the tournament. Tom Wood, Flanker, injured his ankle against Racing Metro and while he did not require surgery, it is unknown when he will return. As mentioned above, David Wilson, Prop, is out of the opener against Wales with a nerve impingement problem in his neck, similar to the issue that has troubled Launchbury.
Wales on the other-hand announced their team to face England on Monday at 11am, 48 hours ahead of schedule, with only two changes to the starting XV that beat South Africa in November, with Northampton winger George North and Gloucester hooker Richard Hibbard returning to the line-up. There was no prior warning from the Kiwi coach, who broke the news on Twitter having previously scheduled a press conference for Wednesday morning in Cardiff: “We decided to name the team early to give the players the best possible chance of preparation,” said Gatland. “It was a tough call on the two changes we have made from the side that beat South Africa, but its good to have these and other tough selection decisions and it’s a strong position to be in. We are excited about kicking the tournament off on Friday against a strong England side in front of a packed Millennium Stadium.” North had previously been warned that his place in the XV was under threat, however the 22-year-old starts ahead of Liam Williams in a back three also including Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert. There is a wealth of experience in the midfield partnership of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, while Ospreys pairing Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue the half-back combination that has been so successful this season. The starting XV for their match with England, with Sam Warburton captaining the side on his 50th appearance is as follows: G Jenkins, R Hibbard, S Lee, J Ball, A-W Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton, T Faletau, R Webb, A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, G North; D Biggar and L Halfpenny. The England XV will be: J Marler, D Hartley, D Cole, D Attwood, G Kruis, J Haskell, C Robshaw (C), B Vunipola, B Youngs, G Ford, J May, L Burrell, J Joseph, A Watson and M Brown. The best rugby prediction would find an England victory as an almost impossible feet, but one never knows how the oval ball will bounce!