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Rugby Insight: Matt Dawson's Key Targets

  • Matt Dawson analyses the IBM TryTracker keys to the game
  • Listen to England Rugby's new O2 Inside Line podcast

As England gear up for their first game at Twickenham Stadium in 2018, there is an enticing match with Wales in the second round of the NatWest 6 Nations to look forward to with both teams having won their opening fixture.

Former England scrum half and World Cup winner Matt Dawson says when he was playing there always felt like an extra edge to a Wales game week.

“There was always plenty of needle and there was always going to be the odd comment in the paper," he said.

"When you spend time in Wales for the club game there was always a bit of stick and there’s always going to be someone Welsh in the office or in the pub remembering the games you’ve won and lost.

“It was always a game you look forward to and it won’t be any different this weekend. It will be the same rivalry with both teams fired up ready to go and desperate, absolutely desperate, to win."

Breakthrough backs

Both England and Wales secured bonus-point wins on the opening weekend and sit first and second in the table respectively

A look at the stats powered by IBM TryTracker say that if England's backs average more than 6.4 metres per carry, it gives Eddie Jones's side a 93.50% chance of winning the game.

“The accuracy was noticeable against Italy and if you’re keeping the ball for numerous phases and you’re running at that intensity to every single breakdown and every single pass, it’s very, very difficult to not let your line break," added Dawson.

“Last week England were relentless for 80 minutes even when the finishers came on as well.

“Having those carriers and busting the line is going to be the difference between the sides as the two defences are very good. 6.4 metres is a lot given where they have been before around 6 metres, but it would certainly be a key differentiator.”  

White wall

In two years under Eddie Jones in the NatWest 6 Nations, England have never conceded more than four tries in a game, much to the testament of the work Paul Gustard does with the defence.

The England defensive line will need to be on point again on Saturday, and the target set from IBM is if they attempt 148 or more tackles during the game then they should come out with a win - something Dawson thinks they will be prepared for.

"They're all incredibly courageous, strong and have great technique, it will purely depend on whether they get pulled out of position or not," he added.

"If they can keep the white wall and let the big dogs make some big tackles around the fringes to stop Wales' momentum, then England have got a chance of coming out of the blocks fast in defence and causing Wales some trouble.

"England were really well organised last week and got into position very, very well and they looked really fresh in the legs. I know Warren Gatland seems to think Wales are fitter, but England are in remarkably good shape, I don't think you need to worry about their fitness."

Secure set piece

Against Italy, England were close to perfect with their lineouts as from 14 throws, the Azzurri only managed to get their hands on one.

They will need show that kind of accuracy again on Saturday afternoon, with the targets showing that if England secure 93% of their own throw ins, it improves their chances of making it two wins from two by 80%.

"England are going to be under more pressure from Wales and you know that Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards will have some tricks up their sleeves," said Dawson

"The forwards will have to have their wits about them, but the way England stuck to their guns last week and used their options was right up there. I think the players will be disappointed if they didn't hit 92%.

"A lot of the players will know each other from the Lions tour, they'll know strengths and weaknesses, they'll be wary of some of the calls and some of the things they've shared over that tour, but there will be a huge amount of respect there."


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