Loose forwards key to success in Wales-England showdown, says Scott Quinnell
Last Updated: March 15, 2013 7:26am
Croft's aerial dominance will help England
England coach Stuart Lancaster has made four changes for the RBS Six Nations title decider against Wales, including a starting berth for Tom Croft who will start at No 6 in only his seventh appearance since recovering from a broken neck.
And former Wales No 8, Scott Quinnell, who knows all about upsetting England Grand Slams after denying them in 1999, believes Croft will give the Red Rose the edge in the lineouts.
"England have picked a very strong side - they have gone for a defensive side more than an attacking side - but it is a good solid team," he said.
"So for me Croft is a good decision, but what I feel England lack is a genuine ball carrier - someone like Ben Morgan. Joe Launchbury does a bit but I think they will miss what Morgan brings.""
"The biggest worry for Wales will be that lineout. England have gone for height with Tom Croft which gives them another option and will take some pressure off Joe Launchbury and Geoff Parling.
"So for me Croft is a good decision, but what I feel England lack is a genuine ball carrier - someone like Ben Morgan. Joe Launchbury does a bit but I think they will miss what Morgan brings."
Meanwhile, the Wales camp will be without Ryan Jones. Quinnell - who won 52 caps for his country - says losing the Ospreys flanker is a huge blow for Wales but thinks the combination of Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton could give the hosts the upper hand at the breakdown.
"Ryan Jones is a massive loss for Wales - he has been playing well all year and to get that thumb injury just before the campaign and then come back and take over the captaincy and then get injured again is a huge shame.
"Wales have gone for two chasers in Tipuric and Warburton - both are outstanding players and genuine Lions contenders. Tipuric has been outstanding and is an out-and-out seven.
"Warburton has got some flack but he played very well against Scotland when he came on. Not having the captaincy will help him - he can just focus on playing. With Toby Faletua at No 8 Wales have a pretty potent back-row combination there - but our lineout option does not stand out like England's with Tom Croft. So for me the back-row battle is going to be very intriguing.
"Another area where I think Wales can dominate is the scrum. We have been pretty dominant upfront and I was a bit surprised that Gethin Jenkins got the nod to start ahead of Paul James who has been very good. However he is a good player and a good scrummager and with James on the bench it should be a good day for the front row boys.
"I do think that Mako Vunipola would have been a better option for England though. I think he is the better scrummager and have him on for 50 minutes and then bring on Joe Marler when the game has opened up a bit.
"Wales really need to make sure that the likes of Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts and George North fire," added Quinnell.
"If they fire then Wales win - but they have not fired at all this season which is a worry. I also want to see them get into Owen Farrell - he is a great player and not scared of anyone - I like that in a player. But I want Wales to put a lot of pressure on him. They need to be careful that they don't give away penalties though because Farrell will make them pay.
"For England it is a Grand Slam on the line - these do not come around too often. They know what they have to do and their game will be built on Farrell's boot and a massive defensive effort."