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England v Wales: Warren Gatland’s side hunt famous win

Warren Gatland

World Cup warm-up: England v Wales
Venue: Twickenham Date: Sunday, 11 August Kick-off: 14:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC 5 Live Extra & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary

Wales travel to Twickenham as favourites to beat an injury-hit England in their World Cup warm-up and move to the top of the world rankings.

Coach Warren Gatland has picked a strong team featuring 13 starters from Wales’ Grand Slam-clinching victory over Ireland in March.

England’s experimental starting XV, rejigged after a trio of late injuries, have 390 caps compared to Wales’ 676.

Wales have won their last 14 Tests, a run that goes back to February 2018.

If they extend their streak to 15 against their oldest rivals, or even draw, they will overtake New Zealand as world number one when the rankings are published on Monday.

The All Blacks suffered a heavy defeat against trans-Tasman rivals Australia on Saturday.

History repeating?

As the teams meet in their first warm-up match before Japan 2019, Wales will be aiming for a first win at Twickenham since their famous pool-stage success in the previous World Cup.

Seven of Wales’ starting XV on Sunday were involved in the dramatic 28-25 win that derailed hosts England’s campaign.

Wales celebrate beating England

“We won’t take it lightly, but we have to be confident,” said captain Alun Wyn Jones.

“There are a few of us who have been to Twickenham and been successful. We are a settled side, but that does put pressure on us.”

Gatland has admitted that he is taking a gamble by exposing selection certainties such as Jones, flanker Justin Tipuric and full-back Liam Williams to the possibility of injury ahead of their World Cup opener against Georgia on 23 September.

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It is a risk that Gatland has fallen foul of before. Key men Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny were ruled out of the 2015 tournament after picking injuries in Wales’ final warm-up match against Italy.

“Sometimes you have just got to roll the dice and go with it,” said Gatland.

“You can’t get it right all the time. You are trying to negotiate warm-up games with sides and trying to get the balance right.”

Wales will meet England in Cardiff next weekend, before playing Ireland home and away on 31 August and 7 September respectively.

‘A most fascinating time’

Willi Heinz and Lewis Ludlam

England coach Eddie Jones has made light of the disruption that has blighted his team’s build-up to the match.

As well as the late withdrawal of centre Henry Slade (knee), flanker Sam Underhill (toe) and would-be debutant wing Ruaridh McConnochie (hip) from the starting line-up, it has emerged that Ben Te’o and Mike Brown were dropped from the squad after an incident during the team’s head and humidity training camp in Italy last week.

“It’s all part of a World Cup campaign – adapting, adjusting, bring people in and out, finding your role. It’s a most fascinating time,” said Jones.

“I have had four World Cups so I think I know how to prepare the team for the tournament.”

Even without McConnochie, Jones’ line-up contains two players making their England debuts, with another two uncapped players on the bench.

New Zealand-born scrum-half Willi Heinz, 32, will audition for a place on the plane as back-up to first-choice nine Ben Youngs while Lewis Ludlam, who has made only 25 Premiership appearances for Northampton, is attempting to force his way into consideration in the back row.

Hooker Jack Singleton and centre Joe Marchant could make their first England appearances off the bench while prop Joe Marler, who has come out of retirement for the World Cup, is also among the replacements.

England: Daly; Cokanasiga, Joseph, Francis, Watson; Ford, Heinz; Genge, Cowan-Dickie, Cole, Launchbury, Ewels, Ludlam, Curry, B Vunipola

Replacements: Singleton, Marler, Williams, Kruis, Lawes, Youngs, Marchant, Tuilagi

Wales: L Williams; North, J Davies, Parkes, Adams; Anscombe, G Davies; Smith, Owens, Francis, Beard, Wyn Jones, Wainwright, Tipuric, Moriarty.

Replacements: Dee, Jones, Lewis, Ball, Shingler, A Davies, Biggar, Watkin.

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