Tuesday, March 12, 2013

England Have Battle To Beat Wales For Six Nations Grand Slam

.England travel to face Wales next Saturday at 5 o'clock in the Six Nations finale with the hope of winning their first Grand Slam since 2003. However, a difficult home game against Italy, while Wales put in an impressive performance against Scotland away has many wondering whether this England team can even avoid losing by the eight-point margin that Wales need to gain for the title.

England won the Six Nations in 2011, but they haven't won a Grand Slam since 2003. Ireland, France and Wales have each won a Grand Slam in the past four years. Head coach Stuart Lancaster will know that this is a great opportunity for this English team to asset itself and gain valuable confidence as it prepares for a Rugby World Cup at home in 2015. The English Rugby program has a talented and tough group of core players and they will know that they are facing a real opportunity to build for that competition.

However, it has also become pretty clear during this competition that England is a team with issues. After a bright opening 38-18 victory over Scotland where they tallied four tries; England have managed to score just one try.

They didn't score a try in the 12-6 victory over Ireland in Dublin, they then managed only one against France, a breakdown off the opening kick-off that allowed Manu Tuilagi to run in an early score.

Still, this team still arguably entered last weekend as the favorites to win a Grand Slam. They entered a match-up at Twickenham against Italy, a country that they own a dominant 274-66 aggregate score in six Six Nations match-ups against Italy at Twickenham. The reality was that Lancaster's team produced an unsatisfying performance that wouldn't have made many fans feel comfortable. Toby Flood kicked six penalties, but this team was held without a try for the second time in this competition, and now they have just one try in the past three games.

The problem is that they face a talented Welsh team, who are only one year removed from their last Grand Slam success. Wales suffered a disappointing opening weekend loss at home against Ireland, which ended their aspirations of a repeat Grand Slam. However, since then this is a team that has gone from strength to strength.

Italy didn't look as strong defensively at the Stadio Flaminio racking up a 26-9 victory and then last weekend they set up a season ending showdown with a 28-18 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield. It is perhaps understandable why many make the Welsh favourites in the match-up in Cardiff.

England seem to lack speed on the flanks, they've struggled more than any other team in the poor weather and generally they just spilled opportunities. However, this is a team that should be pumped up. They come up against a Welsh team that has been a little erratic and they have a defence that should make life very tough for Rob Howley's team.

England's line-up has a decent balance to it right now. They have the potential to score more heavily, but they also have the opportunity to build an identity as a tough team to play against and they might actually be comfortable entering Saturday's game as underdogs against a team that will need to be aggressive to succeed.

England should have the battle to beat Wales and win a first Grand Slam since 2003

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