The effectiveness of England’s new-look 10-12-13 combination will be decisive to the outcome of Saturday’s clash against Pool A rivals Wales, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
England coach Stuart Lancaster has made a pretty clear statement in selecting the most abrasive trio available to face up to the gainline battle expected at Twickenham.
By opting to start with Owen Farrell, Sam Burgess and Brad Barritt, Lancaster has sacrificed flair for physicality.
In league convert Burgess they have a defensive hit man, and the sort of player with the physical presence to match that of Wales’ midfield power player Jamie Roberts.
The injury to outside centre Jonathan Joseph necessitated a midfield reshuffle, but Lancaster did have the option of slotting Henry Slade into that position.
However, with a lateral English backline having lacked penetration at times against Fiji in their opening World Cup match, it’s clear that a direct and decisive approach will be adopted on Saturday.
England could well miss the creativity of Joseph and young George Ford, but in a horses-for-courses selection, Lancaster has taken what looks to be a well calculated gamble.
Ford, of course, is extremely unlucky to miss out after making the No 10 jersey his own in recent times, while he also caused Wales problems during their Six Nations clash at the Millennium Stadium earlier this year.
In Farrell, though, England have a reliable general, and his understanding with club teammate Barritt is another factor in his favour.
Injury-hit Wales will field a completely new-look side at Twickenham, with as many as nine changes made to their team that beat Uruguay, but there is still plenty of firepower in this Red Dragons team.
Indications are that it won’t be pretty on Saturday, but it will be brutal, and the side that emerges victorious will take one big step towards the knockout stage.
FARRELL’S STATS THAT MATTER
33 – Test caps
24 – Test starts
307 – Test points scored
2 – Test tries scored
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: England 58, Wales 56, Draw 12
At Twickenham: England 29, Wales 13, Draw 7
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Sam Burgess, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 James Haskell, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 George Ford, 23 Alex Goode.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Alex Cuthbert.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Photo: David Roger/Getty Images