Postive England setup should trouble Welsh

UNDERACHIEVING England coach Martin Johnson has thrown down the gauntlet. By picking a positive starting XV – which notably includes Mathew Tait at outside centre – they are sending a message not just to Wales, their opponents at Twickenham tomorrow, but also to the other members of the Six Nations.

Sale Shark Tait has the pace and attacking instincts to scare opponents but since his first international start five years ago he has not really had the chance to make a claim for a regular place. He has won 32 caps, but tomorrow will be his first start on home soil. His selection at his club position, alongside the similarly attack-minded Riki Flutey and Delon Armitage, proves England’s intent.

However, this is all irrelevant if England’s forwards can’t win ball. The return of Simon Shaw at lock and Nick Easter at number eight should provide some valuable extra strength at the breakdown, while Matthew Rees’ unanticipated absence in Wales’ front row is a another massive boost.

Wales have won the last three Six Nations meetings, including last time at Twickenham, but as recently as
August 2007 they lost 62-5, their largest ever defeat to England. Although both fielded experimental sides, a number of players present then will return tomorrow. Back England to win when giving away three points with Boylesports, who are generously offering even money on rugby handicaps.

Despite England’s single try in November it looks wise to buy points at 41 with Sporting Index, for a few reasons beyond their seemingly new approach and a fine weather forecast. England were joint top points scorers in the
2009 tournament with 124 and top try scorers with 16, while the last three England / Wales meetings in south-west London have seen 45, 67 and 60 points scored. Since Italy joined the Championship no team has scored more points than England, with an impressive total of 1511 from 50 matches. It’s fair to assume metronomic kicking machine Jonny Wilkinson is responsible for the majority and with the attention diverted away from him for a change he can concentrate on doing what he does best.

England to win with 3 point handicap at EVS
with Boylesports
Buy total points at 41 with Sporting Index

ARSENAL are seemingly slipping out of the title race and were comprehensively beaten by Manchester United at the Emirates last weekend. They are in the middle of a very difficult run and will be desperate to avenge their 3-0 home defeat by Chelsea in November.

The Blues have been almost unstoppable at Stamford Bridge this season and only Everton have managed to avoid defeat in the league. They have played eight times at home across all competitions since their 1-0 win against United in early November, averaging 3.5 goals per game and scoring at least two in all of them. They have also won three of the last four meetings against Arsenal, but were beaten 2-1 here last season – the Gunners’ first victory at the Bridge since 2003/04.

There has to be a worry that Chelsea were poor at Hull and the John Terry story is certainly an unwelcome distraction, but analysis shows that when Big Four teams both misfire prior to playing each other it is normally the home side that benefits. Since 2003/04, there have been eight Big Four clashes where both sides had failed to win their previous league match with the home team going W5-D2-L1.

Chelsea to win at 5/6 on Betdaq
HT draw / FT Chelsea at 5/1 with Hills
Sell total match goals at 2.6 with Sporting Index

Arsenal haven’t had a problem finding the net this season, but they haven’t scored in the first half in any of their last five trips to Chelsea. Interestingly, four of the last five league games between these two here have been goalless at the break which makes the 5/1 about a HT draw / FT Chelsea win look decent value.

An extremely telling stat for goals punters is that 10 of Chelsea’s 12 home games have produced at least three goals this season, but the only two that haven’t were against Man United and Liverpool. This fits well with 75 per cent (15/20) of their home games against the Big Four seeing less than three in the Abramovich era.