“Pool of Death” will earn its name on Saturday as the unstoppable and the immovable meet
And so we come to the first blockbuster of Rugby World Cup 2015, as perennial rivals England and Wales going head-to-head in a game neither side dare lose.
With Australia still to come for both teams, any slip up could prove fatal in the Pool of Death.
The big news for England is the inclusion of “Slammin’ Sam” Burgess, who forms a new-look midfield alongside the equally abrasive Brad Barritt with Jonathan Joseph out injured, while George Ford makes way for Owen Farrell at out-half.
Burgess was impressive in his 20-minute cameo against Fiji, his direct running helping to see out the game. His inclusion here could well signal a different approach in the absence of the twinkle-toed Joseph.
Certainly the respective midfields of Farrell, Barritt and Burgess up against Wales’ Dan Biggar, Scott Williams and Jamie Roberts suggests a battle of brute force.
Elsewhere, Welsh plans have been hit by a series of successive injuries with centre Cory Allen this week becoming the latest Wales player to be ruled out of the tournament, joining Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb, Rhodri Jones and Eli Walker in the casualty ward.
On the plus side full-back Liam Williams has been passed fit after coming off in the first half against Uruguay, however prop Samson Lee (on the bench) has not been deemed fit enough to start.
That means the inexperienced Tomas Francis comes into the front row, while in the backs Gareth Davies makes only his second start for Wales at scrum-half and 21-year-old winger Hallam Amos is selected ahead of Alex Cuthbert.
The Pool of Death was always going to be an examination of the pool of depth at Warren Gatland’s disposal and those injury woes have left him light on reinforcements. That could make all the difference here.
Billy Vunipola is also brought in to bolster England’s ball-carrying options at No 8, again hinting that this game will not be for the faint-hearted.
Stuart Lancaster’s side won the most recent encounter between the sides in February, with Joseph their match-winner in Cardiff. If they are to win again it will be through an entirely different approach: one that is based on defensive physicality and won on the gainline.
England, like fellow Pool A participants Australia, have never failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup and it seems preposterous to think the hosts’ participation could be over before the knockout stages. With that in mind – and Wales’s list of walking wounded – it’s hard to see beyond a home win, with England available at 33/10 to win by 6-10 points inclusiveAdd to betslip.
The match kicks off at 8pm on Saturday, September 26th at Twickenham Stadium.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.