Farrell can stick boot into Wales from kicking tee

Graham Reid
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Owen Farrell has been drafted in for George Ford against Wales
Graham Reid looks at the the best of the weekend’s Rugby World Cup action

ENGLAND and Wales breathed a collective sigh of relief following their opening Rugby World Cup fixtures. Taking on Fiji and Uruguay respectively, neither were wholly convincing, but each came away with what was required – a bonus point win.

Injuries are now hampering both sides, which will knock continuity, and most likely see a tightened-up game plan from Stuart Lancaster and Warren Gatland.

For the men in white, the mercurial George Ford has been swapped for the reliable kicking game of Owen Farrell. Outside him, a sidelined Jonathan Joseph has made way for a bruising central pairing of Brad Barritt and Slammin’ Sam Burgess. Their presence doesn’t indicate an expansive running game.

Meanwhile, Wales might soon be struggling to put out a sevens side, let alone a full XV. Cardiff Blues centre Cory Allen has now joined the considerable Welsh injury list, after tearing a hamstring against Uruguay.

Add in the pressure of this being one of two crunch games for the sides – Australia is the other – and we’re likely to see a nervy, damage-limiting game, particularly in the opening stages. That’s why I’ll sell total match tries at 3.1-3.5 with Sporting Index.

With five-pointers at a premium, penalties will become all the more important to build a winning score, and Farrell is the right man to have on the pitch when it comes to slotting over the pressure kicks. England kicking metres are trading at 150-160, which is just about low enough to buy.

The last time these two met in a World Cup was 2003. On that occasion England were almost dumped out of the competition by a Wales team who, on paper, shouldn’t have worried the eventual champions.

It goes to show how tournament rugby can affect even the most assured of teams. That warns me away from a prediction on the final score.

While I would be tempted by a low England winning margin – perhaps 6-10 points at 9/2 with Betway – I’m not confident enough to tip it.

I’m going instead with Chris Robshaw as top England tackler. He’s 3/1 favourite with Betway, which is generous considering he headed the charts during the Six Nations and is the most likely of England’s starting XV to play 80 minutes.

Sell total match tries 3.1 (Sporting Index)
Buy England kicking metres 160 (Sporting Index)
Chris Robshaw top England tackler 3/1 (Betway)