Ieuan Evans assesses Welsh aspirations.
Wales have been very unfortunate in that they begin this year’s RBS Six Nations campaign with a host of injuries. Most notably, they are missing Lions props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones and on the back of an Autumn Series in which one of the only positives for Wales was the performance of the tight five, this is a major blow. England will be looking to target the Welsh scrum in Friday night’s encounter and it will be a big test of the credentials of the relatively inexperienced Paul James and Craig Mitchell.
The absence of Leigh Halfpenny is another big disappointment. Leigh is one of our most potent weapons, not only with ball in hand but with his ability to kick penalties from his own half. His replacement, Morgan Stoddart, will have to be at his best to nullify the threat of the English back three.
It is, however, a huge relief to see the return of the Lions’ Man of the Series, Jamie Roberts. Jamie is one of the best centres in world rugby and he can give Wales the front foot ball that is so important to generating quick ball for Mike Phillips. Wales are one of the most threatening and exciting teams in World rugby when they produce quick ball and this will be key to their success in this year’s tournament.
We have not won in our last seven games and we only have two home matches in the 6 Nations this year, against England and Ireland. Friday night’s match will be crucial. If we can get off to a winning start against England in Cardiff tomorrow, I think the team will take great confidence and go on to have a very successful tournament. The Millenium crowd will be a real factor in determining the outcome of the game. If Wales can get on top, England might start to feel the pressure in the hostile atmosphere and the door would be opened for an invaluable Welsh victory.