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Six Nations Championship 2014: Predictions for Triple Crown Decider

Graham Rowntree has identified the "exceptional" Welsh scrum as a major threat to an England victory.
Graham Rowntree has identified the "exceptional" Welsh scrum as a major threat to an England victory.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Jason PettigroveContributor IMarch 8, 2014

England's rugby selectors have hardly given their charges the best incentive to dig in for a victory in the Triple Crown decider vs. Wales at Twickenham on Sunday.

Whilst the visitors are on a £20,000 per man win bonus, Stuart Lancaster's boys won't get an extra penny, per Gavin Mairs of The Telegraph.

Whilst selection for your country should always be about playing for the jersey, a little recompense wouldn't go amiss.

The RFU will argue of course that England's players are already the best paid in world rugby, according to Mairs' report.

In any event, Lancaster will be as methodical as ever with his preparations and will look to avert a slide that has seen England lose to their Welsh counterparts in the last three internationals.

The coach himself needs no extra incentive having never coached a winning side against the The Red Dragons, and he is hoping home advantage proves crucial, per the North Wales Daily Post:

I think it’s fantastic to go back to Twickenham.

There was an unbelievable atmosphere against Ireland and this week will be right up there.

It definitely gives us an extra lift and that’s what we want against another experienced, high-quality side, who are looking to defend their title.

With a "blood and thunder" war of attrition expected in this one, let's take a look at some predictions for the game.

 

Halfpenny the match-winner

Both teams will have to curb their enthusiasm to go for the big hits in the early stages.

In Owen Farrell and Leigh Halfpenny, both sides possess players with an almost metronomic ability to turn the game with a kick of the boot.

Over the course of this season, the stats show that Halfpenny has been the far more consistent.

According to Simon Gaskell of Wales Online, Halfpenny has scored from 80 percent of his kicks, whilst Farrell by comparison has a lowly and erratic 64.3 percent success rate.

Farrell has missed eight of his 21 penalties across the season compared to Halfpenny's four from 25.

If it comes down to it, the confident Welshman will secure the points for the visitors.

 

Welsh power too much to handle

Adam Jones' role will be crucial in the front row for Wales.
Adam Jones' role will be crucial in the front row for Wales.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

England forwards coach Graham Rowntree has warned his players what to expect from an "exceptional" Welsh front row on Sunday.

Per BBC Sport, Rowntree noted the physicality and excellence of Welsh and British Lions trio Gethin Jenkins, Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones:

Each of them is one hell of a player. 

I thought they were exceptional against France. They had the law laid down to them by Gats (Wales coach Warren Gatland), and they delivered. We have to match that this weekend.

We've got some young guys who are learning week by week, so this will be another big challenge for them.

Dave Wilson and Joe Marler find themselves alongside Dylan Hartley and the latter put an unusual spin on the defeat in Cardiff, per BBC Sport:

It's nice to have the memory of that game to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Since that game we haven't been beaten in that manner. I think our forward pack has developed hugely in the last 12 months.

Marler had a torrid time in Cardiff and was substituted just after half-time after being completely dominated by Jones in the scrum.

This game would normally have been a chance for the England loose-head to exact some retribution, but the laws at the scrum have changed immeasurably in the last 12 months.

A better barometer to where the home side's front row are at will be Marler's success at the ruck and maul, where he excels.

But whilst Hartley may see the positives of defeat, England don't have enough about them to harness the Welsh drive in this one.

 

Score Prediction: England 14 Wales 20

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