Saturday 18 November 2017

Cuthbert at the ready to rip Red Rose apart again

Wales wing Alex Cuthbert. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Wales wing Alex Cuthbert. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Nigel Whittaker

Alex Cuthbert - England's two-try nemesis when Wales crushed their Grand Slam hopes four years ago - is on red alert to start in Cardiff today.

Wales are giving wing George North, a scorer of 28 tries in 66 Test matches, the maximum possible time to recover from a leg injury.

He was involved in the Wales captain's run session yesterday but there was mounting speculation last night that he was losing his battle to be fit.

Cuthbert, who has won 44 caps but not started a Six Nations game since Wales lost to England at Twickenham last season, also took part in the Principality Stadium run-out - as did uncapped Scarlets speedster Steff Evans.

Cuthbert claimed two second-half touchdowns during the 2013 clash in Cardiff, when Wales' record 30-3 victory not only denied England a tournament clean sweep, it meant the home team were crowned Six Nations champions on points difference.

Fly-half Dan Biggar is thought to be less of a fitness concern after being forced off at half-time against Italy in Rome following a blow to the ribs.

Asked about North's chances, Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde said: "I can't go into 50-50s or 60-40s, or whatever. All I can do is rely on what the medics are telling me.

"They (Biggar and North) have done everything asked of them up until now. It's obviously a close call because we are leaving it late. We are just making sure that whatever happens, we are ready for kick-off tomorrow."

Wales do not need to release their confirmed starting line-up until this afternoon, and McBryde added: "Rob (Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley) will make the final call on that. You have to speak to Rob. What will be, will be.

"Obviously, we have got contingency plans in place. We've got Steff Evans and Alex Cuthbert with the squad as well.

"Everybody has got their heads on psychologically. Everyone is making sure they are preparing the best they can, ticking off everything they need to cover."

The week has not been immune from the mind games that accompany one of Test rugby's fiercest rivalries, but McBryde played down England's request for the Principality Stadium roof to remain open.

England are chasing a fourth successive Six Nations victory over Wales.

Irish Independent

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