England v Wales preview: Team news, kick-off time, key battles, line-ups and stats for the Six Nations clash
England and Wales have both named unchanged starting line-ups for Saturday’s pivotal encounter: 16:00 kick-off
Centre Manu Tuilagi returns to the England bench as one of four new faces
Wales have made three changes among their replacements, with Paul James, Luke Charteris and Rhys Webb coming in
Revenge and a shot at the Six Nations title will weigh heavily on the minds of England and Wales when they meet at Twickenham on Saturday.
Less than five months after Wales sucked the noise out of England’s south-west London fortress with an incredible turnaround win, the two sides return to the same stage knowing that a win on Saturday puts them in pole position to win the Six Nations on the final weekend.
Manu Tuilagi will be on the bench for the hosts as head coach Eddie Jones names an unchanged starting XV. The Leicester centre, 24, has not played for England since June 2014 because of a groin injury and disciplinary issues.
England’s three other changes to the match-day 23 that beat Ireland 21-10 at the end of last month see Exeter hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie come in for Saracens forward Jamie George and the fit-again Joe Launchbury replace Courtney Lawes. Prop Kieran Brookes has also been selected among the replacements.
Meanwhile, Wales head coach Warren Gatland has also named an unchanged team.
Gareth Davies retains the scrum-half spot ahead of Rhys Webb, who is named among the replacements. Webb was recalled to the squad after six months away from international rugby with injury
Lock Luke Charteris is also back on the bench where Paul James to comes in to cover the injured loosehead, Gethin Jenkins. Record cap holder Jenkins suffered a calf strain against France so will not add to his 122 Wales appearances.
Both teams are unbeaten going into Saturday’s match, with England boasting a 100% record under new coach Eddie Jones in pursuit of their first Grand Slam since 2003. Wales have beaten Scotland and France after drawing 16-16 with Ireland in their opening game.
The pair, who are cousins, both start in the middle of the back-row on Saturday, standing toe-to-toe for their respective nations. Their fathers Fe’eo Vunipola and Kuli Faletau both played for Tonga and these two embody that traditional Tongan fighting spirit with their styles of play. The youngsters have found themselves pitted against each other from a young age, but now they renew that rivalry at Twickenham once again after their battle at the Rugby World Cup. This will be a great physical battle with an incredible back story!
Wales have won on two of their last three visits to Twickenham – in the 2015 World Cup and the 2012 Six Nations.
England are bidding for a third consecutive Six Nations win over Wales for the first time since 2004.
Only one win separates these sides in the all-time head-to-head – England lead by 58 wins to Wales’ 57 (12 draws).
England have won 10 consecutive Six Nations home matches since their 19-12 defeat by Wales in February 2012.
Victory against Wales would give them a 25th Triple Crown.
Wales are unbeaten in their last seven Six Nations games (W6, D1), their best run since winning eight in a row between 2007-09.
They are targeting a fourth title since head coach Warren Gatland took charge in 2008.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Dylan Hartley’s feisty character has so far been ideal for the role of England captain, though there are drawbacks to him arguably not being their best hooker available to Eddie Jones. It will be probably one way or the other with him this weekend; hero or zero. We will just have to sit back and see.
Wales: Alun Wyn Jones
Our personal choice to lead the Lions in 2017, Wyn Jones has been outstanding for Ospreys since returning to domestic duty following the Rugby World Cup. With his constant hard work, pinpoint passing and technical know-how at the set-piece he is a cornerstone of the Wales team. The term world-class is labelled on players far too much, but with Jones, it seems appropriate.
2015: Wales won 28-25 at Twickenham
2015: England won 21-16 in Cardiff
2014: England won 29-18 at Twickenham
2013: Wales won 30-3 in Cardiff
2012: Wales won 19-12 at Twickenham
2011: Wales won 19-9 in Cardiff
2011: England won 23-19 at Twickenham
2011: England won 26-19 in Cardiff
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Danny Care, 22 Manu Tuilagi, 23 Elliot Daly
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Gareth Anscombe
Date: Saturday, March 12
Kick-off: 16:00 GMT
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)