Experimental England slay Welsh hopes of becoming World No. 1
As two old enemies reconvened at Twickenham, this World Cup Warm Up was never going to be a friendly encounter.
As rugby fans will have become accustomed to, England shot out of the blocks. England’s totemic wrecking ball Billy Vunipola combined well with Jonah Lomu-esque winger Joe Cokanasiga as the twenty stone powerhouses grabbed an early try each.
Earning only his fourth cap, Cokanasiga played with the #14 jersey, but Jones used the 21-year-old as a quasi-back rower, with his impressive breakdown carrying catching the eye. Standing in for try machine Jonny May, Cokanasiga offers a different dimension to the 2019 Six Nations top try scorer and it will be interesting to see how Jones deploys the pair in Japan.
Wales struck back with a slaloming surge from Gareth Davies. A textbook scrum-half snipe was all the away side could muster following England’s first half monopoly of territory and possession.
It was England who had the last laugh before heading into the break. Making his first start in an England jersey, Luke Cowan-Dickie intercepted a Welsh line out to dive over the line.
Although both George North and Wyn Jones took advantage of Wales’s experience up-front to pick up from the breakdown to score, England were always one step ahead thanks to George Ford’s composure with the tee. With an intelligent moment of improvisation, Elliot Daly slotted a late drop kick to seal the win for England.
This demonstrated that England appeared to have fixed the leak of throwing away early leads. Something that will be vital in the World Cup crunch matches.
Although English fans will no doubt celebrate their deserved victory over their Welsh rivals, both head coaches downplayed the importance of the result.
Despite the friendly nature of the game, the ferocity demonstrated at Twickenham was certainly not too friendly. Injuries to England’s Tom Curry and Wales’s Gareth Anscombe are both huge blows, with Anscombe leaving in a wheelchair.
In his 30-minute cameo, the aforementioned Curry was everywhere for England and, if he recovers quickly, has rightfully earned the England #7 shirt heading into the World Cup.
Debutants Lewis Ludlam and Willi Heinz both looked like fifty-cap veterans, with the former’s passionate rendition of God Save the Queen capturing the hearts of fans before the ball was kicked.
This is how you sing an anthem. Congrats @LewisLudlam
— Jim Hamilton (@jimhamilton4) August 11, 2019
Despite a raft of impressive performances, Anthony Watson scooped Man of the Match with an impressive defensive performance. Watson, whose injuries issues have led to him missing out on England selection since March 2018, was imperious under the high ball, and despite starting on the wing, the Bath back will be pushing for the full-back starting role come September.
As living legend Alun Wyn Jones became Wales’s most capped player of all time, the iconic captain will be keen to take revenge next week when the sides meet again in Cardiff, where he is master of the house.