Mike Brown 7 Liam Williams 7
Harlequins man Brown is a fierce competitor and is defensively solid. Opposite number Williams is equally feisty and has made more metres than any other Welsh player with 192. The self-proclaimed bomb diffuser is also fearless under the high ball and a rock in defence.
Anthony Watson 8 George North 8
Bath wing Watson’s blistering pace and side-stepping ability mark him out as a real threat. With nine tries in 18 tests, his finishing ability is obvious. Welsh winger North is a physical specimen and has beaten more defenders than any other player in the Championship.
Jonathan Joseph 8 Jonathan Davies 8
England midfielder Joseph is a wonderfully balanced runner and is the Championship’s top try scorer with three tries. Scarlets bound centre Davies will challenge the Bath man physically, with his outside break particularly dangerous.
Owen Farrell 7 Jamie Roberts 8
Eddie Jones has attempted to emulate a Southern Hemisphere set-up by selecting a second five-eighth. Farrell’s selection at 12 gives the English an extra kicking option in midfield. Qualified doctor Roberts has had a storming tournament to date and will look to dominate the gain-line.
Jack Nowell 7 Alex Cuthbert 6
Junior World Cup winner Nowell is a deceptively agile runner, whose quick feet will really challenge the Welsh defence. However, the Exeter flyer is suspect under the high ball. His much-maligned opposite number Cuthbert has endured a torrid time over the past year with his confidence shot to bits.
George Ford 7 Dan Biggar 8
England general Ford may only be five foot ten but he’s the man who pulls the strings of this England back division. The Bath tactician’s biggest challenge will be in defence, with Jamie Roberts bound to target his channel. Dan Biggar is an all-round solid player who is defensively strong and is one of the best goal kickers in the world.
Ben Youngs 8 Gareth Davies 7
Leicester scrum-half Youngs is deadly around the fringes of the ruck and will look to snipe whenever he can. The Welsh back-row will have to slow England’s ruck ball down because Young’s is more accustomed to the game being played at pace. It is a struggle to think of a better running scrum-half in Europe than Scarlets nine Davies who has made four clean breaks so far in the Championship. However, the 25 year-old is rough around the edges,and needs to lower his error rate.
Billy Vunipola 8 Taulupe Faletau 9
Saracens ball carrier Vunipola has been a revelation in the opening three rounds. His explosive ball carrying has been nigh on impossible to deal with and Wales will need to bring him down early if they are to triumph. His cousin Faletau is a more polished player and has an enviable work rate having made 51 tackles in the first three fixtures.
James Haskell 7 Sam Warburton 9
Veteran flanker Haskell is effectively playing out of position on the open-side, whereas Warburton is a genuine seven. Haskell will carry strongly and tackle hard but Warburton has a clear advantage in this department. The 2013 British Lions skipper is the closest we have in this hemisphere to Australian superstar David Pockock. The Blues seven is a powerful ball carrier but it is his work over the ball that separates him from the rest.
Chris Robshaw 7 Dan Lydiate 7
Former captain Robshaw is playing some of the best rugby of his career having been relieved of the captaincy. Back in his favoured position of blind-side flanker, Robshaw’s impressive work is far more appreciated that it was when he wore the number seven shirt. Defensive lynchpin Lydiate is arguably the strongest defensive player on the planet, with a huge tackle count. The Ospreys man will be given the task of dealing with Vunipola.
Maro Itoje 8 Alun Wyn Jones 9
The 21 year-old Saracens lock is quite frankly a freak of nature and is a real superstar in the making. A lineout-expert and a real athlete, the former England under 20’s skipper strikes the perfect balance between enforcer and footballer. However, Saturday sees the young man come head-to-head with one of the finest locks of this generation with Alun Wyn Jones needing no introduction.
George Kruis 8 Bradley Davies 7
The 13 times-capped Kruis has been one of the players of the tournament to date. The Saracens’ man is England’s top tackler on 40, has made the most turnovers with four and has dominated the lineouts with 19 takes. Former Cardiff lock Davies is a grafter who puts in the donkey work and won’t take a backwards step.
Dan Cole 8 Rob Evans 7
Test Lion Cole is one of the most destructive scrummagers in Europe and will look to gain the upper hand over relative test novice Rob Evans. Despite being a tight-head prop Cole is arguably England’s best exponent of breakdown play. Pembrokeshire product Evans has taken to test rugby like a duck to water with his explosiveness around the field well documented.
Dylan Hartley 7 Scott Baldwin 7
Kiwi-born hooker Hartley was a surprise choice as England captain given his poor disciplinary record. However, he has been solid thus far with his tight work very powerful. Ospreys’ hooker Baldwin never sets the world alight, but is a key part of a Welsh lineout that is operating at 96%. It is also thought that Gatland is an admirer of Baldwin’s scrummaging.
Joe Marler 7 Samson Lee 8
There has been a lot of attention on Marler’s scrummaging in the lead up to Saturday’s game. Marler is a decent scrummager but has a notorious reputation for boring in at an angle at scrum time. Samson Lee is now fully recovered from a snapped Achillies tendon and has shown his scrummaging prowess in the first three rounds.