Wales displayed an impressive performance that overwhelmed England, giving them a much-needed boost ahead of the upcoming World Cup in France. Gareth Davies and George North’s tries, coupled with Leigh Halfpenny’s composed kicking, led Wales to a well-deserved victory. Notably, it was Halfpenny’s 100th Wales appearance, making the victory even more memorable.
The match marked the debut of new Wales captain, Jac Morgan, and his leadership on the field was commendable. Despite Marcus Smith’s three penalties for England, the visitors failed to capitalize on their first-half dominance, allowing Wales to mount a second-half comeback. Wales’ defensive tenacity, spearheaded by George North’s standout performance, denied England crucial tries, while Aaron Wainwright’s impressive display at number eight solidified the Welsh defense.
For England, this was the final opportunity for players to make a lasting impression before head coach Steve Borthwick announces the final 33-man World Cup squad. However, not many players managed to shine, leaving Borthwick with some concerns as he finalizes the squad. Borthwick chose to rest key players and gave opportunities to new faces, with flanker Tom Pearson earning his debut and uncapped forwards Theo Dan and Tom Willis coming off the bench.
Borthwick’s decision to take three scrum-halves and three fly-halves to the World Cup virtually secured Danny Care and Marcus Smith’s spots in the squad, while Joe Cokanasiga and Joe Marchant were hoping to make an impact but fell short in the match. The English side displayed some wastefulness, missing opportunities and spurning attacking line-outs, which could pose a concern heading into the tournament.
On the other hand, Wales head coach Warren Gatland expressed confidence in his squad’s ability to surprise people and deliver something special at the World Cup. After a challenging year with multiple losses and off-the-field controversies, Gatland has been focused on changing the negative narrative surrounding Welsh rugby. This victory against England could be the catalyst for the team’s resurgence.
Gatland has the advantage of three warm-up matches to fine-tune his squad before naming the final lineup. With experienced players like Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, and Ken Owens unavailable, Gatland is seeking a new leader and plans to appoint different captains for each warm-up Test. Jac Morgan led the team impressively, making a strong case for the captaincy role, and players like Dan Biggar, Dewi Lake, Will Rowlands, and Adam Beard remain in contention.
The match also brought injury concerns for Wales, with hooker Ryan Elias and lock Dafydd Jenkins forced off the field due to injuries. These injuries could create problems for Gatland, especially with Owens already ruled out for the tournament’s group stages. Elliot Dee, Dewi Lake, and Sam Parry will now compete for the hooker spots.
Despite the injury setbacks, Wales showcased resourcefulness and determination in their second-half performance, demonstrating their readiness to face the challenges that lie ahead. The team’s hard work during the tough training camps in Switzerland and Turkey paid off, as several players made their Test debuts and impressed in various positions.
As the World Cup draws near, both Wales and England will need to address their strengths and weaknesses to develop a distinctive style of play. For Wales, this victory serves as a major confidence boost, and they will look to build on this success in their upcoming warm-up matches. The return fixture against England at Twickenham will provide another opportunity to fine-tune their game plan before the highly anticipated tournament in France.