Gareth Chilcott: The Wales-England game has everything - and I can't wait
Tomorrow’s Wales-England game in Cardiff is set up to be a fitting finale to a Six Nations Championship that has had a bit of everything.
From the demise of the French and the struggles of Ireland, to the impressive performances by Italy, Scotland’s improvement and the Welsh resurgence from their poor pre-Christmas form, the tournament has been intriguing.
Then there is the small matter of England going for the Grand Slam and a Welsh side determined to not only stop them but to win the title themselves. Throw in the small matter of players playing to enhance their Lions credentials, and it has already been a fantastic Six Nations – and that is without yet knowing how it will end.
Wales will miss Ryan Jones but they have Gethin Jenkins as captain and another great leader in Sam Warburton, who may feel he has a point to prove after being overlooked for the captaincy. England’s youngsters, meanwhile, showed in the rain in Dublin that they are not afraid of the big occasion – and they will have to deny Wales’ main attacking threats, such as George North and Jamie Roberts, the ball they need to impress.
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But every time I look at this game, I come up with a different outcome. I really cannot decide who I think will emerge victorious.
If Wales win but England take the title, it will feel as if the championship has been shared, because this is not football and a victory on points difference will seem hollow.
From an English perspective, I want to see them start well and starve Wales of any early adrenaline. If they can do that for 20 minutes, even if it means playing boring rugby, then they will seriously hurt Wales’ chances of winning. England need to take the sting out of Wales early on, because it will be an emotionally charged atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium.
There is a Grand Slam on the line, a championship on the line, personal pride and national pride. I watch a lot of rugby around the world – and this has everything. It is exactly the kind of game I watch rugby for – and I can’t wait.
Bath were beaten by a young Harlequins side in the semi-final of the LV= Cup last weekend, which means they only have the Amlin Challenge Cup to play for now in terms of silverware. Peter Stringer has improved Bath but they still don’t have enough class in some positions and this could be another season where they are drifting. The concern for Bath is that a lot of people can’t remember the days when they would regularly win trophies – people are beginning to think of them as a mid-table team. And that is unacceptable but sadly inevitable.
Bristol have brought Andy Robinson in and signed several new players with an eye on next season. But they shouldn’t lose sight of the fact there is still a big opportunity to do something special this season. After a brilliant result at Bedford, they were beaten by Nottingham, and simply must get back to winning ways at Moseley this evening.