This Saturday 26th February, England will be taking on current title holders, Wales, at home ground, Twickenham. Just this morning, both teams have released their selections for the important Six Nations match this weekend. Though, the RFU and WFU have both struggled with significant revenue reductions since the pandemic first began.
England Team: Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Freddie Steward; Max Malins, Jack Nowell, Marcus Smith, Charlie Ewels, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes (C), Tom Curry, Alex Dombrandt, Harry Randall, Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler.
On the bench: Jamie George, George Ford, Elliot Daly, Joe Marler, Nick Isiekwe, Sam Simmonds, Ben Youngs, Will Stuart.
Wales Team: Liam Williams, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis; Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Ross Moriarty, Taine Basham, Dan Biggar (C), Tomos Williams, Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau, Alex Cuthbert, Owen Watkin, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams.
On the bench: Dewi Lake, Gareth Thomas, Leon Brown, Seb Davies, Jac Morgan, Kieran Hardy, Gareth Anscombe, Jonathan Davies.
Quite unexpectedly, England are going into this weekend’s match as favourites to win the Guinness Six Nations title. Both teams have faced defeats in the first round, before bouncing back to win their round two matches. So, neither can afford to lose on Saturday if they wish to secure the title.
In 2021, Wales won four of their five games and secured their 39th championship title (to match England’s existing 39). Though, after a difficult season, Wales are not entering the game as favourites. England international Mike Brown labels a Wales win as "unthinkable", telling BBC Scrum, "I just think the English forwards will dominate the Welsh forwards, with all due respect. I just think they have got too much up front". But there is still everything to play for.
Shortly, we will see if the Dragons can silence critics and secure their first win at Twickenham in the Six Nations since 2012. Supporters are again able to visit stadiums post-pandemic and will be watching tentatively as England take on last years’ winners. The Lions are welcoming a recovered Courteney Lawes as captain and the remainder of the selected team make for a formidable force. No matter the outcome, Robert Kitson says that England are “unlikely to have victory served up on a platter”.
PANDEMIC PAINS FOR RUGBY UNION
It hasn’t been plain sailing for Rugby Union across the board. At the end of last year, RFU announced a revenue shortfall of £120m, citing the pandemic’s empty stadiums as the cause.
Welsh rugby has faced similar financial concerns, with WRU uncharacteristically struggling to sell tickets for home matches. Often, Wales matches sell out rapidly, but that has not been the case this year, with the grounds finding themselves in a ‘race against time’ to sell their highest priced tickets to Six Nations fixtures to date. Continuing fears over the return to live events may well have impacted their sales again this year.
RFU’s chief financial officer Sue Day sums the wider situation up by saying, “put simply, we have less money to invest in our great game than in recent years and that means that we must spend the money that we do have wisely, making sure that we invest each pound so that it has the greatest impact on delivering the purpose of our strategy: to enrich lives, to introduce more people to rugby union and to develop the sport for future generations.”
Though, as Six Nations is a fan favourite event, the post-pandemic reintroduction of ticket sales is sure to relieve many of the clubs’ financial concerns.
With the first tournament held in 1882, the Six Nations is one of the oldest cup competitions in the world - having a short break from play only while the second world war (understandably) put the tournament on hold. The historic rugby event offers lucrative prizes, and teams will earn huge bonuses and rewards for wins.
Though, English players are still undoubtedly the highest earning. The Times reports that last year, each player in camp received £75,000 and earned an extra £15,000 for each of the five games. Notably In 2021, senior England players voted on a payment restructuring for Six Nations which means that, if England wins, players will receive an equal share of the £2.1 million prize pot - whether they are selected for match day or not.
In past years, England and Wales have delivered brilliant Six Nations entertainment. Both teams are masterful on the pitch, with England winning the most Grand Slams with 13, and Wales just behind them with 12. It will be an interesting match and all signs are pointing to an awesome display of rugby prowess. I’ll be cheering from the side-lines for this one!
When? 4.45pm GMT.
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