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England power to see off challenge of Wales

In one sense, this is already a make-or-break episode in the Six Nations, as at least one of these teams will leave London with their Grand Slam dreams extinguished.

The late withdrawal of hooker Matthew Rees means Cardiff's Gareth Williams will win his eighth cap for Wales. But it is in midfield where the Welsh seem most out of kilter.

Curiously, James Hook has been selected at outside centre beside Jamie Roberts. It must be assumed that these two are inter-changeable, with Hook's skills set more suitable as a second tactical kicking option to out-half Stephen Jones.

Whatever their individual merits, logic dictates this is not the smartest move in the book, given the special skills demanded of a 13, especially in defence.

Worse again, Martin Johnson has finally favoured the artist over the artisan by bringing back Mathew Tait, a man whose virtues are more on the front foot than the back .

Tait could be the perfect player to take advantage of the unfami-liarity between Roberts and Hook beside the instinctive playmaking skills of Brive centre Riki Flutey.

If England can dominate the physical confrontation, which they should with Dylan Hartley, Simon Shaw, Lewis Moody and James Haskell, Jonny Wilkinson will use his experience to exploit Wales.

Verdict: England

England: D Armitage; U Monye, M Tait, R Flutey, M Cueto; J Wilkinson, D Care; T Payne, D Hartley, D Wilson, S Shaw, S Borthwick (capt), J Haskell, L Moody, N Easter.

Wales: L Byrne; T James, J Hook, J Roberts, S Williams; S Jones, G Cooper; G Jenkins, G Williams, A Jones, A-W Jones, L Charteris, A Powell, M Williams, R Jones (capt).


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