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Wales v England – Teams and Prediction

PREVIEW: Wales and England kick off their Nations Series schedule with the first of a derby double-header on Saturday.

The two teams meet twice in a week, with Cardiff the stage for the first match in what both teams will hope is a long and fruitful few months.

The World Cup looms on the horizon, and England head coach Steve Borthwick will name his squad on Monday – meaning this match is the last chance players have to secure their seat for a trip to France.

Marcus Smith has been given the opportunity to play his way into England’s World Cup squad.

Smith is the preferred flyhalf for the first of four matches ahead of Owen Farrell and George Ford, both of whom started the Premiership final on May 27.

With Smith thought to be behind Farrell and Ford in the pecking order, he has the platform at the Principality Stadium to convince his head coach that a third flyhalf should be taken to France.

Danny Care joins the 24-year-old at halfback and the side is littered with fringe contenders for the final 33-man group – with no players from Premiership finalists Saracens and Sale present in the starting XV.

Ellis Genge captains the team but, apart from Care, it is an inexperienced line-up, with fast-rising Northampton flanker Tom Pearson making his debut at openside.

England won the last time they played Wales, with Kyle Sinckler and Ollie Lawrence scoring tries in a 20-10 win.

England coach Steve Borthwick will be hoping his side replicate those efforts this Saturday.

For Wales, it will be a challenging outing as they head into the fixture after winning just two of the past 10 Tests.

Gatland’s team finished fifth in a Six Nations campaign overshadowed by contractual and financial issues plaguing the Welsh game.

Wales have also slumped to ninth in World Rugby’s official rankings and talismanic figures such as Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb have all recently retired from the international game.

But head coach Gatland has delivered an upbeat message ahead of his team’s games against England home and away.

They also take on South Africa before a tough World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.

Gatland said being written off would make Wales stronger.

“I am really excited,” said the New Zealander. “I’m telling you this team will do something pretty special.

“I think if I look back on the Six Nations and all the things that were going on, I probably needed to let things unfold a bit and not be as direct or demanding as I might have normally been.

“The fact that things have settled down and a lot of new players have come in, the way that we’ve been so much more accountable for how we do things and demanding standards, that has been brilliant.

“As a group, we are in a good place. I promise you now, we will surprise some people.”

Gatland will parade three new caps – Max Llewellyn, Corey Domachowski and Keiron Assiratti – in a starting line-up captained for the first time by flank Jac Morgan.

Other leadership candidates will also be assessed during the warm-up schedule, but Morgan has first opportunity to put down a marker.

“He is a fantastic individual and he is respected in the group. He has got a big future for Wales,” Gatland said.

“He doesn’t say a lot or talk a lot, a bit like Sam Warburton. He does his talking out there and leads by example.”

Gatland also described fullback Leigh Halfpenny, who will become the ninth player to win 100 Wales caps when he runs out against England, as the “ultimate professional”.

“He will be leading the side out,” Gatland said. “He is driven and he is a role model for everyone coming through who looks up to him.”

Players to watch:

For Wales: There are five debutants in the squad. Keiron Assiratti (tighthead prop), Corey Domachowski (loosehead prop) and Max Llewellyn (centre) are all selected in the starting XV for their first Wales caps. Henry Thomas and Taine Plumtree, named among the replacements, are also in line to make their senior Wales debuts this weekend. Playing in his 100th Tests, Leigh Halfpenny at fullback will be under pressure to put in a big show. With Dan Biggar’s absence, Halfpenny has to provide the much-needed experience in the backline. Speedster Louis Rees-Zammit adds some pace out wide, and he has shown he can be a good finisher.

For England: There will definitely be a big spotlight on Marcus Smith. The flyhalf, who has been hot and cold, will have to impress for a spot in the World Cup squad. Freddie Steward has delivered noteworthy performances during the Six Nations and has become a major asset under the highball. Loosehead prop Ellis Genge has been named the captain and his leadership will be crucial especially when it comes to discipline. Alex Dombrandt at No.8 is another selection that has made England fans happy. He is a powerhouse with the ball in hand.

Head to Head

Wales v England - Teams and Prediction

Wales v England - Teams and Prediction

England by nine points


Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Max Llewellyn, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Jac Morgan (captain), 6 Christ Tshiunza, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Dafydd Jenkins, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Taine Plumtree, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Mason Grady.

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Max Malins, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Guy Porter, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Lewis Ludlam, 5 George Martin, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jamie Blamire, 1 Ellis Genge (captain).
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Bevan Rodd, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Tom Willis, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 George Ford, 23 Henry Slade.

Date: Saturday, August 5
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 17.30 (16.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Gusty winds and light rain showers with a high of 18°C and a low of 10°C
Referee: Nic Berry (Rugby Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland); Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)

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