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Six Nations | Group Stage
Feb 10, 2024 at 4.45pm UK
Earl (20'), Dingwall (63')
Penalty (18'), Mann (38')

Preview: England vs. Wales - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Six Nations clash between England and Wales, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

England will be looking to maintain their unbeaten record in the 2024 Six Nations when they play host to Wales at Twickenham Stadium in their second match of the competition on Saturday.

The Red Roses are in second place in the standings after securing victory in the first round of matches, while the Dragons are fourth but did manage two bonus points despite suffering defeat in their tournament opener.

Match preview

England's Chandler Cunningham-South and Theo Dan celebrate after the match on February 2, 2024© Reuters

Following an underwhelming 2023 Six Nations campaign and a World Cup semi-final appearance that obscured some underlying issues, England would have come into this tournament with the pressure of demonstrating that they have evolved under the leadership of Steve Borthwick.

While they managed to clinch this championship back in 2020, they have struggled to mount a serious challenge for the title since then and were overtaken into third place by Scotland in the last edition.

England are in the midst of a major rebuild, and with as many as five debutants in their side last week, they were initially caught off guard by Italy's passion and attacking prowess before managing to secure victory in the closing stages of the match.

However, one of the notable differences in the English gameplan was the introduction of a blitz defence system - similar to the one we saw South Africa employ to good effect at the World Cup - although there is still lots of work to be done by new defensive coach Felix Jones in that regard as the side's timing was off on several occasions and will need to be much better this weekend after allowing the Italians to run in three tries.

Still, Borthwick's men will gain confidence from their second-half performance, which was significantly improved, with Alex Mitchell scoring a try, while George Ford's boot kept them out of the reach of the Pumas and will be crucial in pegging back the Welsh front line in this one.

Wales' Leigh Halfpenny scores a conversion on September 16, 2023© Reuters

While England's start to their first match of the competition in Rome was far from impressive, it was nothing compared to the shocking display Wales put on in the first half in Cardiff against the incoming Scotland.

The Dragons were steamrolled in the first 40 minutes of the match, and after going 27-0 down just three minutes into the second period, it looked as though a hefty defeat was on the cards for them.

However, Warren Gatland's side mounted a remarkable comeback effort, scoring tries through James Botham, Rio Dyer, Aaron Wainwright and Alex Mann, putting them within reach of an extraordinary turnaround. Unfortunately, it was not to be as Scotland managed to cling on to a tense 27-26 victory.

Nevertheless, plenty of positives and a lot of confidence would have been taken from that battling display on opening night, and a better start on Saturday could see them push England all the way in this one.

England Six Nations form:

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England form (all competitions):

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Wales Six Nations form:

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Wales form (all competitions):

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Team News

England's Jonny May pictured in August 2023© Reuters

For the first time since 2019, England have named an unchanged starting 15 for this match, potentially signalling Borthwick's search for continuity as the rebuild begins.

The only alteration in the matchday 23 is on the bench as Ellis Genge returns from injury to take his place among the replacements, resulting in Beno Obano being omitted from the squad entirely after earning his fourth cap against the Azzurri.

Marcus Smith remains unavailable for England due to a calf injury he sustained in the side's training camp in Girona, meaning Ford retains his position at fly-half while Fin Smith continues to provide cover from the bench.

Gatland, on the other hand, has implemented seven changes to his starting line up, which includes the return of George North, who was sidelined due to a shoulder injury in last weekend's opener against Scotland.

After scoring a try on his Test debut off the bench last weekend, Mann steps up to replace the injured Botham on the blindside flank, earning his first start in the international arena.

Gareth Thomas, Elliot Dee and Keiron Assiratti form an entirely new front row, while Tomos Williams replaces Gareth Davies at scrum-half, and Ioan Lloyd joins him in the halves pairing with Sam Costelow out due to a concussion.

England starting lineup: 15. Freddie Steward, 14. Tommy Freeman, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Fraser Dingwall, 11. Elliot Daly, 10. George Ford, 9. Alex Mitchell, 8. Ben Earl, 7. Sam Underhill, 6. Ethan Roots, 5. Ollie Chessum, 4. Maro Itoje, 3. Will Stuart, 2. Jamie George (c), 1 .Joe Marler

Replacements: 16.Theo Dan, 17. Ellis Genge, 18. Dan Cole, 19. Alex Coles, 20. Chandler Cunningham-South, 21. Danny Care, 22. Fin Smith, 23. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso

Wales starting lineup: 15. Cameron Winnett, 14. Josh Adams, 13. George North, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Rio Dyer, 10. Ioan Lloyd, 9. Tomos Williams, 8. Aaron Wainwright, 7. Tommy Reffell, 6. Alex Mann, 5. Adam Beard, 4. Dafydd Jenkins (c), 3. Keiron Assiratti, 2. Elliot Dee, 1. Gareth Thomas

Replacements: 16. Ryan Elias, 17. Corey Domachowski, 18. Archie Griffin, 19. Will Rowlands, 20. Taine Basham, 21. Kieran Hardy, 22. Cai Evans, 23. Mason Grady

SM words green background

We say: England 24-17 Wales

Gatland will be pleased with his side's second-half performance last week, but there is still a long way to go until Wales are likely to challenge for the top spots in this competition. While England were far from impressive last week, they look like a more complete unit, and the continuity in selection will do wonders in helping this young team gel. We are expecting an entertaining watch and are backing the hosts to claim the points.

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England's Chandler Cunningham-South and Theo Dan celebrate after the match on February 2, 2024
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