Saturday will be a Test match in every sense. It will test Wales physically, it will test Wales tactically and it will be a test of Wales’ will.
England look fantastic. Ferocious, bordering on sadistic in defence and they have a plethora of ways they can score points. On paper and before a ball is kicked in anger, it’s hard to envisage anything other than a comfortable win for the team once described as like ‘white shirted orcs on steroids’.
England are that powerful and awesome.
Wales are back in the position they were pre-Warren Gatland, hoping that they can somehow lift their own performance, while England make some howlers and perhaps, maybe, the home side can sneak a win.
The frustrating thing for me is that I believe in the general philosophy that Wales are trying to follow. I believe Wales should be trying to play more openly. I want to see Wales go out with an intent to score tries and beat teams with a combination of skill and power.
I also think that this approach suits the type of players we tend to produce in Wales.
What’s so frustrating is that it is not working.
Wayne Pivac is clearly a man under pressure. With the team under-performing, everything he says and does is scrutinised in detail. Yet he stuck with his pre-tournament plan to bring in youngsters against Georgia and he will stick with the game plan to try and move the ball against England.
There are sound arguments that Wales should be pragmatic and play territory. It’s a risk averse strategy, reduce mistakes, kick long, chase, and allow the defence create pressure in the opposition’s half.
That’s fine, but the trouble is that the England may well have the same idea too. In which case England’s defence is likely to have the upper hand and dominate that type of game.
Strategic kicking is an integral part of rugby but excessive kicking that fails to pressurise the opposition is hard-earned possession wasted.
The much-used defence of Wales kicking is that the All Blacks kick as much as anyone and no-one criticises them.
True, but there are plenty of other statistics about the way New Zealand play that those choosing to justify kicking conveniently fail to mention. Like that their forwards make more passes than any other side, they have more phases of three passes or more than any other side and they score more tries that originate in their own half than any other side.
I am very much for playing like New Zealand.
Pivac will stick with his game plan against England. Partly because he believes in it and partly because he has to.
A volte face at this stage would damage his credibility. In this regard, he should be looking to emulate Gatland; when plan A is failing, stick with plan A, just do it better.
The failings that have hampered Wales the most over recent weeks has been their fragile set piece and their lack of gain line success. Each of these areas are where England excel.
Wyn Jones and Jake Ball provided some hope in their recent performances that they can lead the fight up front. But they will need the other members of the pack to be equally assertive.
With limited alternatives and a decent performance against Georgia, it looks like Johnny Williams will be given the responsibility to cross the gain line in midfield. This is a major step up in intensity to a level he has not experienced before.
What I would like to see Pivac do is to identify players who can implement his ideas on the pitch. The very best players can adapt from one style of play to another and still be the best players in the side.
Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Josh Adams are three that fit that bill. But there are others who might have thrived under Gatland but who aren’t as suited to Pivac’s game plan.
And there will be players who may have been on the fringes previously who would be a perfect fit now.
Selecting the right player to fulfil the objective is the key to international coaching. Gatland could see the attributes in a player that matched what he wanted from them and that fitted his system. Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate were world class players executing Warrenball, they were never so influential in other set-ups.
Pivac needs to discover his key players. It may be Lloyd Williams or it may be Shane Lewis-Hughes, but he could do with unearthing a gem that helps bring his ideas to fruition.
I hope to see progress this weekend, I hope that Wales can rattle the English defence, I hope Eddie Jones is not able to reel off his pre-prepared smug cheap shots in the post-match interview.
In particular, I hope that Wales stay in the game and make England earn every point. I hope that Wales can challenge the English defence and create some fault lines.
This is what I am hoping for because I think these things are possible.
An objective and logical appraisal of these two teams leads to only one conclusion.
Wales may not win, but they are better than the performances we have seen so far this Autumn.
Proving they are better is what I hope to see this Saturday.
* Gwyn Jones is part of S4C’s Clwb Rygbi team. Watch coverage of Wales v England from 3.30pm on Saturday, on S4C and S4C Clic.
Clwb Rygbi will also show Scarlets v Leinster from 5pm on Sunday, and full match replays of Connacht v Ospreys (Saturday, 10.35pm) and Cardiff Blues v Glasgow (Monday, 10.30pm).
Ahead of Wales v England, download the Sgarmes Ddigidol podcast with Rhodri Gomer and Shane Williams, available from podcast providers.