Talking points as England host Wales in World Cup warm-up

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England and Wales will face off at Twickenham on Saturday in their second warm-up Test for the Rugby World Cup. In their previous encounter, Wales emerged victorious with 14 unanswered second-half points, securing a 20-9 win behind tries from Gareth Davies and George North. As they prepare for their next clash, here are some key points to consider.

England has called upon their top players, recognizing the importance of this match as they enter must-win territory early in their warm-up campaign. Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje, Billy Vunipola, and Jamie George are among the front-line stars who will be in action. With the pivotal opener against Argentina looming on September 9, England is in need of a reassuring performance to reverse their recent downward spiral.

For Wales, maintaining their momentum is crucial. They have not secured back-to-back victories since November 2021, when they defeated Fiji and Australia. Head coach Warren Gatland has made 15 changes to the squad as he finalizes his World Cup selection. This match will be the last opportunity for many players to impress before the squad announcement. Although Wales has struggled at Twickenham in recent years, their impressive victory over England last weekend has provided a boost of confidence, evident in the support of the crowd at the Principality Stadium.

One player to watch for Wales is flanker Jac Morgan, who captained the team in their win against England. Morgan’s leadership qualities make him a strong candidate for skippering Wales in the World Cup. However, Gatland has indicated that he will use the August schedule to assess captaincy options, giving Ospreys hooker Dewi Lake the chance to prove himself. After missing last season’s Test rugby due to shoulder and knee injuries, Lake is eager to showcase his abilities on the international stage.

In the back-row, England’s most intriguing selections are Billy Vunipola and Ben Earl. Vunipola will make his first Test appearance since the autumn due to a knee injury that kept him out of action. As the squad’s only specialist number eight and a powerful carrier, Vunipola needs to perform well to make an impact. Meanwhile, Earl has earned his first full debut after playing 15 previous caps as a replacement. His attacking skills as an openside flanker could provide a spark for England.

Warren Gatland’s influence on Wales is evident, as the team has undergone a transformation since his return as head coach. Last season’s Six Nations campaign was disappointing, marked by a fifth-placed finish and off-field issues. However, with demanding training camps and a victory over England, Wales has shown significant improvement. Gatland is relishing the opportunity to prove critics wrong and is enthusiastic about leading Wales in his fourth World Cup campaign.

As England and Wales prepare to face each other, both teams have much at stake. England will be looking to regain momentum and confidence, while Wales aims to build on their recent success and secure a victory at Twickenham. The match promises to be an exciting clash as the teams continue their preparations for the Rugby World Cup.

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