Pre­dic­tion 2nd

Wales

Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden -

cated sec­ond-row, who writes poetry in his spare time, is a once-ina-gen­er­a­tion player. At 6ft 5in and 18 stone, he is im­mensely pow­er­ful, but what sets him apart is his ath­leti­cism, which could see him pushed up to play­ing at blind­side. Just 22, he didn’t play on a los­ing side last sea­son and is be­ing inked in as a fu­ture cap­tain.

What to ex­pect

If Eng­land can go un­beaten un­til the fi­nal game, they’ll have the chance to break the world record for con­sec­u­tive wins—which stands at 18—but Wales lie in wait at an in­hos­pitable Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium. Ex­pect a stern ex­am­i­na­tion of their world num­ber two sta­tus as they build to­wards the World Cup.

State of the na­tion

New be­gin­nings. In re­cent years, Wales have had the most set­tled of squads, but stag­na­tion in the past 12 months has led to in­creas­ingly vo­cal de­mands for evolv­ing Wales’s style of play from mus­cu­lar dom­i­na­tion to their more tra­di­tional, eva­sive run­ning rugby. They have a glut of ex­cit­ing, un­capped play­ers, but can they gel in time?

Justin Tipuric (be­low). He spent a long time in the shadow of for­mer cap­tain Sam War­bur­ton, but the Tre­banos­born open-side—who wears a blue scrum­cap to re­mind him of his home vil­lage—is a gifted ball player who links the for­wards and backs with in­tel­li­gence and guile. ‘Tips’ re­cently com­pleted 160 tack­les with­out miss­ing one.

What to ex­pect

Two steps for­ward, one step back. If Wales can walk the walk, af­ter talk­ing the talk about their evo­lu­tion, they could pros­per, es­pe­cially with the tal­is­manic Alun Wyn Jones at the helm and the world’s best kicker, Leigh Half­penny, tick­ing the score­board over. Lose to Italy and it could be tears in the Prin­ci­pal­ity.

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