England v Wales: Key Battles in Sunday's Twickenham Test
By Louise Warr
Last Updated: 29/05/16 5:10pm
As England and Wales prepare to go head-to-head in the Old Mutual Wealth Cup on Sunday, we look at some of the key battles that will go a long way to deciding who will win bragging rights at Twickenham, live on Sky Sports 3.
Courtney Lawes v Alun Wyn Jones
The second rows contain two men with a point to prove.
Alun Wyn Jones returns to the scene of his last appearance before suffering a foot injury. He will be raring to get back into action, especially against the old enemy and it will be an invaluable opportunity to blow off the cobwebs, find some match fitness and test the foot that has plagued him for so long.
Jones has been hitting the headlines since his return to the Wales camp, his team-mates championing his presence in training, setting the standards of how things should be done. He is the kind of talismanic figure his side will need to take on the All Blacks and will provide a huge boost ahead of the Twickenham clash.
Another man keen to impress will be his opposite number, Courtney Lawes.
The Northampton man was a key figure during the Stuart Lancaster era but has found himself on the outskirts of Eddie Jones' plans since the emergence of Saracens duo George Kruis and Maro Itoje paired with the club form of Joe Launchbury.
Jones will be looking to the 45-cap international to come to the fore and showcase his trademark physicality while setting the example to the younger forwards around him.
However, there is more to Lawes' game than just bone-crunching tackles and his athleticism and deceptive turn of pace could prove vital if he is to get the upper hand on the class operator of Jones.
Jack Clifford v Taulupe Faletau
The battle of the No 8s is not one for the faint-hearted as an experienced operator takes on a young gun keen to impress.
A stand-out performer every time he pulls on the Welsh jersey, Faletau is a key figure in Warren Gatland's pack. The Bath-bound forward was a model of consistency throughout the World Cup and Six Nations, receiving the accolade of the Welsh Rugby Writers' player of the season for his performances.
Faletau is a strong ball carrier who will provide Wales the go-forward they need to unleash a dangerous looking backline. Despite his fierce approach to the game, he is ever-present in the Welsh line-up and since the first of his 57 caps against the Barbarians back in June 2011, the 25-year-old has racked up an impressive 4,280 minutes of rugby, putting in 596 carries.
The man who faces the task of silencing the Faletau is Jack Clifford. The Harlequin has big shoes to fill with Billy Vunipola otherwise engaged with club duties, however the versatile back row had a breakthrough season in the Aviva Premiership, leading to five caps from the bench as England secured the Grand Slam.
However, don't be fooled into thinking that Clifford is just there to keep the shirt warm for Vunipola. He has been a key cog in the Harlequins machine that reached the Challenge Cup final, providing a turn of pace and relentless work rate in a young and exciting pack.
Ben Youngs v Rhys Webb
After a difficult World Cup campaign, Ben Youngs came out firing and featured in all of England's Six Nations matches. The scrum-half found himself on the bench for the decider in Paris, making a telling impact in the closing minutes.
In club colours, Youngs has returned to his orchestrating best, pulling the strings as Leicester made both European and domestic semi-finals.
The eye-catching form of his rival Danny Care will be sure to keep the 2013 British and Irish Lions representative on his toes and he will be key in gelling a team of seasoned internationals and uncapped newcomers.
Youngs will come up against livewire Rhys Webb. The Ospreys' scrum-half has looked sharp since his comeback from the foot injury that forced him out of the World Cup and regained the Welsh No 9 shirt for their final Six Nations game against Italy.
Despite making just 18 appearances for Wales since his debut against Italy in 2012, Webb has racked up six tries and will be hoping his heads-up style of rugby paired with his composure in the middle will conjure up some magic for Warren Gatland's men.
Webb will be fresh and raring to go ahead of his country's summer tour to take on world champions New Zealand and will be keen to put a marker down in the hotly-contested scrum-half battle.
Luther Burrell v Jamie Roberts
It could be argued that bar Stuart Lancaster, Luther Burrell was the biggest casualty of the Sam Burgess experiment, missing out on a place in the World Cup squad at the expense of the rugby league convert.
The Northampton centre will have a big point to prove when he lines up at inside centre against Wales.
A dip in form after his World Cup omission has seen Burrell dragged into a battle with young club mate Harry Mallinder for the Northampton centre berth. However, it seems to have been the push the 28-year-old needed, reigniting the passion that had made him one of England's first choice centres sparking a return to form for the former rugby league man.
With Farrell and Slade unavailable due to club commitments and Manu Tuilagi facing a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, now is Burrell's time to stake his claim for the England inside centre spot.
However, to impress against Wales he will have to withstand the force that is Jamie Roberts. The Harlequins man is a world-class operator who has chalked up 76 caps for his country and played a decisive role as the Lions took a series victory in Australia in 2013.
Roberts, at 6ft 4in and almost 18 stone, provides a rock-solid defensive obstacle as well as the ability to provide a game-making score. In the Six Nations win against Scotland, he put in nine tackles in defence, more than his back three combined, before securing the victory for Wales when he burst over from close range.
He is the cement that holds Gatland's backline together and his impact will go a long way to deciding the outcome between the two sides.
Watch England v Wales live on Sky Sports 3 HD on Sunday from 2.30pm. Catch the match without a contract for £6.99 on NOW TV.