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England v Wales - Key Battles
Twickenham will host the 125th meeting between Wales and England this Sunday with the Triple Crown and RBS 6 Nations titles on the line.
Victory for either side will keep their Championship hopes alive, while England will secure a first Triple Crown for 11 years with a win over the Welsh.
We look at three of the key battles that could influence the match at HQ.
JACK NOWELL v GEORGE NORTH
The two youngest players in their teams have met before in club colours in the Heineken Cup, but Nowell’s memory is hazy as he was knocked unconscious by a stray North boot after an hour.
The Exeter man has shown a clear head in his three Tests to date, overcoming a first-minute knock-on in Paris and showing an impressive ability to put setbacks behind him and get on with the game.
And he actually leads his Twickenham rival in every meaningful statistic, apart from tries scored and carries, in which they are both level on 28.
North scored against France when playing in the outside centre channel but that touchdown also overshadowed the fact he missed five tackles and his tackle success is barely above 40%.
JOE MARLER v ADAM JONES
Marler was part of the England team that were thoroughly outplayed by Wales 12 months ago.
With a year’s extra experience and seven additional caps to his name, the loose-head prop is gunning for revenge this time around.
He has not missed a tackle in the 2014 RBS 6 Nations and is third among props for carries and fourth for metres made.
The litmus test for any prop is the scrum and the yardstick facing the Quins front-rower on Sunday comes in the guise of nemesis 92-cap tight-head Jones.
The curly-haired Welshman celebrates his 33rd birthday on Saturday, has been at the coalface of international rugby for a decade and also boasts five Lions caps.
How Marler stands up to that formidable challenge will help determine if England can play on the front foot.
CHRIS ROBSHAW v SAM WARBURTON
There is a parallel universe out there where England beat Wales in 2013, won a Grand Slam, their young side then forming the bulk of the British and Irish Lions squad with Robshaw as skipper.
That didn’t happen in this universe. It was carnage in Cardiff from an England perspective, Robshaw was overlooked and he ended up having a summer’s rest and opening a coffee shop.
Making lattes served him well. His game, though slightly changed because of Billy Vunipola’s dynamic presence, is as good as ever – as is his relentless work-rate with ball in hand and on the ground, all-round awareness and tackling stats (a tournament-best 43) testify.
Lions captain Warburton, back from injury and his club future sorted, was in fine form against France and scored a try, but the battle of the two sevens and skippers is intriguing and will go a long way to determining the winning team.
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