England must beat poor Wales in Six nations to show growth
England’s third round Six nations match against Wales on Saturday has an odd feel about it. On one hand Steve Borthwick’s men will travel along the M4 filled to the brim with confidence given their opponents across the Severn Bridge are in a state of disarray at the moment.
The time is right for England to strike yet another sucker punch to the Welsh rugby team at the moment, and they will try to use the issues surrounding the Welsh Rugby Union at the moment to their advantage.
But that is risky. Wales, assuming they field a team at the Principality Stadium, will be determined to follow up two disappointing performances with a win over their old foe in England.
England crave Welsh win
There’s nothing the Welsh like more in sport than inflicting defeat upon the English.
I do think England will win this match, I cannot see them falling apart this weekend, but I am surprised to see some of the changes to the squad yesterday.
Ben Earl has been a standout back-row across the last 18 months, and beyond, and his omission is a big one.
The Saracens flanker was good off the bench against Italy in round two, albeit he may not have performed to the extremely high level of Jack Willis.
George Ford has been dropped after just a few days in camp, as have Northampton Saints trio David Ribbans, Fraser Dingwall and Tommy Freeman.
Looking at the squad, you can expect Jack van Poortvliet and Owen Farrell to partner each other at No9 and No10 with Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade in the centres.
Ollie Hassell-Collins is out of the squad with a knee issue so I would expect to see Anthony Watson come into the starting back-three alongside Max Malins and Freddie Steward.
England were ordinary against Scotland and marginally better against a struggling Italy, but Wales is a completely different test and recent events in their opposition sets this one up perfectly.
Scotland have the ability to cause a real upset against France – they may be two from two thus far in the 2023 Championship but they still head into this one as underdogs.
France have lost for the first time in over a year and will need to learn from their errors.
It’s Scotland’s for the taking and this could be the game of the weekend.
I cannot, however, see past an Irish win in Italy in the third match.
Italy looked promising against France and then fell away against England while Ireland have looked world class in both of their matches.
Ireland therefore remain favourites for the 2023 Six Nations Grand Slam in my book.
China Sevens head coach Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.