We interrupt these proceedings with a piece of breaking news. We have a guest poster for the this year’s 2019 Guinness Six Nations. David – or our man in Belfast – has taken out his monocle and delivered the ultimate compliment by previewing the game in Cardiff this weekend. Would he have been so generous with his time had Ireland beaten England in the opening round? We’ll never know. However, we thank him for his neutral view. Though like you will be we are increasingly confused as to why he has written about himself in the 3rd person. A fine line between genius and madness. Anyway, take it away David and good luck Wales. You’ll need it.
The Greatest Team Ever
The 3rd round of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations see what some have somewhat prematurely dubbed a ‘Grand Slam Showdown’**. England come into Saturday with the momentum firmly in their corner, after a thorough beat-down of the French that made old timers harken back to the Battle of Waterloo, and a conclusive victory in Dublin over the ‘unofficial best in the world’ Irish team – (cut to David in our Belfast office shaking his head for approximately the 4,273rd time since the fateful day). Wales on the other hand have started the Six Nations nations with two uneven performances, albeit resulting in wins vs France and Italy. They will need to improve if they are to record their 12th straight win and set a new Welsh record. They too are ‘the greatest ever’ if you ask Eddie Jones. Or Warren Gatland.
The teams bring no surprises, with only injuries changing a formidable England side. The loss of Mako Vunipola will be felt, as he had rediscovered his best form and his work around the park will be sorely missed. The line-out will as always be key and the battle between the imperious Alun Wyn Jones and George Kruis will be a feast for the purists. At the breakdown the battle between young Tom Curry and Justin Tipuric will be one to watch. For the casual viewer there’s always the immense Courtney Lawes, who seems to be having a competition with Mr Farrell to see who can put in the biggest late hit (again comments from a bitter David in Belfast). The unsung heroes of both packs will play a large role, Welsh front row Tom Francis has a knack for getting over the ball and is almost immovable when positioned, and Mark Wilson has been the answer to England’s recent back row woes, with two excellent performances on the flank to open the tournament.
The backlines mix heavy hitters and speedsters out wide. Manu Tuilagi has been a revelation since his return to the white shirt, and his battle with the physical Hadleigh Parkes will be tremendous fun. Johnny May and George North* have both got their campaigns off to multiple tries and both seem at their electric best, with May in particular receiving the plaudits, after a hat trick within half an hour against the French. I can’t confirm but I do believe his opposite number asked for his shirt to wave in surrender at the half time whistle.
Then of course we have the consistently excellent Jonathan Davies, perhaps the best 13 in world rugby, who will be a handful for the England defence. As always games tend to come down to the men in the 10 jersey. Owen Farrell has been in fine form, controlling the proceedings with his right boot and marshalling the gain line with his hard nose defence (David his now been muzzled), on the other hand Gareth Anscombe brings an exciting unpredictability to the Welsh attack and if he can release Wales pacey outside backs we could be in for a feast of try scoring rugby.
We’re very excited for what will no doubt be an incredible contest in Cardiff. It is certainly the fixture of round 3 of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations. Sadly for both sides Yohan Huget isn’t around this week to kindly gift tries so all points will be hard earned. Even David in Belfast finds it hard to see past a narrow England win. We managed to get a scoreline prediction on one of his breaks from banging his head on his desk. 28-22 to England. See you at 16.45 Saturday. If you are lucky enough to be going enjoy the yourself. It shouldn’t be hard.
By David McLaughlin in Belfast.
* we think this is a generous appraisal of Mr North’s performance in spite of the tries he ran in against France.
** – well nobody else can win the Grand Slam can they David?! Remember earlier this month?!