It was a disappointing Sunday afternoon at Twickenham for the Welsh national team as they failed in their bid to extend their winning streak to 15 games and extend their stay atop the World Rugby rankings for longer than the 27 hours it lasted, as they suffered a 33-19 loss to an inexperienced and weakened by injury England side. Wales climbed to the top of the World rankings for the very first time in history following New Zealand’s 47-26 loss to Australia in their final game of the 2019 Rugby Championship, as the All Blacks dropped from the top spot for the first time in a decade.
The Welsh side looked physically and mentally unprepared for the challenge of an England side full of hungry players, determined to impress Eddie Jones and earn a place in the English World Cup squad. Apparent fitness issues among the Welsh squad, potentially caused by their intense training regime, along with some crucial mistakes from big players in important moments were the determining factors in Wales not playing up to their usual standard and falling to a largely experimental England side, who will take great confidence forward from this World Cup warm-up match.
The hosts were quick off the blocks, playing like a side with nothing to lose and everything to gain, and this approach to the game paid dividends, as their relentless attacking and impressive early start handed them two tries and a 14-0 lead within the first quarter of the game. They maintained their 14 point lead going into halftime leading the game 21-7. England’s impressive early start was crucial to their win, and though Wales managed to somewhat narrow the gap between the two sides early on in the second half, they were never able to complete their comeback and the game was all but out of their reach by the 60 minute mark. England carried their quickly established 14 point lead through to the end of the game and sealed their victory in an impressive performance.
Though the Welsh side will not be happy with their performance, and much less, the result. It is important to keep in mind that this was their first World Cup warm-up match after an intense training camp, which was evident on the pitch. This was not a perfect game nor was it a perfect representation for what we should expect from either side going into the World Cup. Both sides will leave this game knowing that they have plenty to work on in the remaining 6 weeks and their remaining warm-up matches before they kick off their respective World Cup campaigns in Japan, where Wales will be determined to show why they are the first team apart from New Zealand to occupy the number one spot in the World Rankings in over a decade, no matter how short lived it was, and may be even more hungry to regain that spot now that they have had a small taste of it.
We won’t have to wait that long to see these two sides lock horns again, as the return fixture at the Millennium Stadium will take place this coming Saturday, the 17th of August, and it goes without saying, Warren Gatland’s men will be determined to avenge this loss in their own backyard. We should be in for just as exciting an affair as this most recent encounter between these two sides next weekend, in Wales’ final warm-up before they face Ireland in both of these two World Cup hopefuls’ final two warm-up matches before they head to the World Cup.