Kainotophobia is the fear if change (not the fear of being munched by an All Black blind side) and there certainly seems to have been more than a fair share of that in the English press since Stuart Lancaster announced that he was changing England’s backline around for Wales’ visit to Twickenham. There certainly seems to have been a mass panic about Lancaster’s decision with Lancaster himself having to deny that he hit the panic button (irony seems lost on some of these journalists) but in all honesty Jonathan Joseph’s injury left him little choice. He could have replaced Joseph with Henry Slade but a backline with the 13 and a half stone Slade and the even lighter George Ford would have been a gamble when Wales’ Centre’s weigh in at a combined 33 stone. Replacing Joseph with Sam Burgess is even more of a no brainer when you realise that he will be the heaviest back on the pitch. The decision to replace Ford with Farrell caused even more consternation, but once again when you take into consideration Farrell stands 3 inches taller than Ford and weighs over a stone more than Ford (Wales outside half Dan Biggar is 6 feet 2 and weighs just over 14 stone, so Farrell is bigger than him) it’s hardly that surprising particularly when allied to the physical attributes you remember how Ford’s game suffers when there’s no creative influence outside him.
Anyway, this apparent controversy is all rather irrelevant when considering who will win the game, here’s where the game will be decided –
• Mostly in the front rows AND more importantly in how the all French officiating team will interpret who is dominant at scrum time(against Fiji Joe Marler was driving at some rather questionable angles and not always being penalised)
• Health is going to have a rather important role to play in deciding the victors, Wales’ injury problems have been greatly documented but England don’t have any real Wing cover on their bench, so nobody can afford early injuries
• The line out has been a particular worry for England since Dylan Hartley’s exclusion and for Wales for an even longer period of time and with driving maul’s becoming impossible to referee or stop a solid 5 metre line out results in either a try or penalty try 99% of the time.
• The first 20 minutes of the game will be crucial. Wales didn’t take the lead against Uruguay until the 16th minute of the game while England have started their last 3 games at Twickenham a lot stronger than they have finished them.
• Continuity will suit Wales, all their conditioning work should benefit them in multi phase play, if Jerome Garces allows play to play to flow (he refereed the 66 point thriller between South Africa and Japan, so that could be an omen for Wales) *takes tongue out of cheek*
• Turnover ball may well be the thing that allows either side to score tries and the inclusion of an 18 stone outside back could well help England at the breakdown. Alternatively if Wales can use turnover ball quickly England’s scramble defence may be their weak point. (I’m expecting Barritt to defend in the 12 channel since he is England’s defensive Captain and it would be difficult for him to orchestrate out in the 13 channel)
• Finally, back to fear again, the team who can get over the fear of failure will be the victor. The fear of making mistakes on the field and the ramifications that a loss would have for either team’s prospects of qualifying for the knock out stages of the tournament are huge.
I’m not one for sitting on the fence (nobody wants splinters in their bum an all that) but it’s difficult to pick a clear favourite here, England are always difficult to beat at Twickenham so I suspect they’ll take the victory, however both teams have made changes from their last run outs so they could both take a while to find any fluency and as I said the opening 20 minutes could well decide the outcome.