If there’s one Six Nations fixture that can nearly always be relied on for thrills and spills, it’s Wales vs England at the Millennium Stadium. Fireworks are to be expected, but forecasting the outcome of the match is a much tougher call.
Since the inception of the tournament in its current incarnation, the Red Rose of England has dominated over the red shirts of Wales. England have a cumulative score of 405 to Wales’ 270, having won nine of their 15 meetings in the competition so far. The average score between the two sides is 25 points to 17.
Yet when the two sides have met at the Millennium Stadium, the rose has often wilted under the heat of the Dragons’ fire. Two years ago, Wales blew England away by a comprehensive 30-3 scoreline. Traditionally the contests have been less one-sided, but Wales do have the edge. Just.
In seven meetings Wales have come out on top on four occasions, however England have a higher cumulative score of 141 to 134 at the Millennium Stadium compared to an overall Six Nations record of 405 to 207. The average score for a Millennium Stadium meeting between the two sides is Wales 19-20 England.
What’s less encouraging for Stuart Lancaster’s men as they cross the Severn Bridge is that Wales’ home advantage has got stronger in recent years with an average score of 24-15 to the home side. England have not scored more than two tries at the ground since their first trip there 14 years ago and have just one win in their last five meetings in Cardiff.
That follows a pattern of increasing competitiveness from Wales both home and away since Warren Gatland took over as head coach. Prior to the Kiwi's arrival, England averaged 10 tries per game to Wales' five in all Six Nations meetings. Since then, it's four apiece.
As the below graph shows, if you average out the number of points scored through tries over a three-year period, England's total has been brought dramatically down in recent years. On one hand, it could be argued that less tries equates to less exciting games, yet the dramatic tension has certainly increased as games have become more competitive.
While both teams have become more similar in terms of tries scored in recent years, Wales have vastly improved their performance in front of the posts. Since the introduction of specialist goal-kicker Leigh Halfpenny into the side, Wales' points scored from drop goals and penalties has risen to a level England's never reached even in the golden era of Jonny Wilkinson.