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Mike Tindall: The absence of Leigh Halfpenny may not be the worst thing for Wales

14 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Mike Tindall: The absence of Leigh Halfpenny may not be the worst thing for Wales

The World Cup winner and Betway ambassador assesses the final preparations of all the Home Nations with the tournament just days away

There will be a lot of excitement in the England camp that Test week is finally here.

All the work that they have done since they have been together is finally going to mean something in terms of getting out there for the first game of a home World Cup.

It strikes me that Stuart Lancaster’s team have been training throughout their warm-up games.

Against Ireland it seemed like maybe they had just tapered their training down a little bit – there appeared be a lot more energy and enthusiasm around what they were doing and it really did look like they were back.

The forwards did not really get their own way in Paris but the line-out was much better at Twickenham and the back row were outstanding.

This probably bodes well for Geoff Parling starting in the second row for that first game but number eight is a tough one to call with Ben Morgan and Billy Vunipola both more than capable of either starting from the off or making a big impact off the bench.

The scrum was the only little question mark with a couple going against the head so that is something that they will definitely be focusing on, but overall it was a massive improvement and something they really needed going into the first game against Fiji.

Ireland must show more in attack

Ireland on the other hand are reportedly not planning on peaking until the France game which is a tricky tactic.

That final pool match will decide if they are set on an easier or harder path through the knock-out stages so I can understand the thinking behind it but they have got to be careful because you can easily be caught out.

Joe Schmidt won’t be flustered by those two losses but he has got to take them on the chin and look at how and why they happened.

There are certainly no questions over their defence or kicking game but I do worry about the variety of threat in their attack.

Having said that, they are so good tactically that if they get in front they are almost impossible to beat, so it will be interesting to watch that unfold.joe-schmidtThe good thing for Ireland is that they have a very settled squad with a lot of experience.

Scotland moving in the right direction

You cannot say the same for Scotland, although they have shown massive signs of improvement with some of the new players that they have brought in.

Historically the Scots have tended to have a great pack and some fantastic scrum-halves but were always missing that link-man at 10.

Now, in Finn Russell, they appear to have found him – and even though the pack is not the strongest that they have ever had they do at least now have some genuine threat behind the scrum.

They have been going through a pretty bad period over the last five years so they have had to do whatever they can to improve the team and it does appear to be working – although one or two injuries could really test their strength in depth.

Wales have reason to be positive

Wales have already had to call up cover after those injuries to two key players that they suffered against Italy.

Of course, in Leigh Halfpenny you are losing a rock at the back who does not make many errors and a goal-kicking machine who is tried, tested and proven.

With 62 caps, 508 international points and Lions Tests under his belt that is a vast amount of experience to lose from your squad – but I actually think that Liam Williams is a better attacking full-back.

He is rangy, difficult to tackle, great at offloading and he also has great vision.

With Williams you get a little bit more X-factor in terms of attacking the line and he could become a star of this World Cup.

Rhys Webb is probably a bigger loss as he has been on fire, but in saying that Gareth Davies was the top try scorer in the Pro12 last year.

He is very attacking, quick and does similar things to Webb around the rucks in attacking those first two defenders and putting people through holes.

It does however put a lot of pressure on Dan Biggar, who now has to kick for goal and form a new partnership with a nine.

In some ways I quite like the axis that they have now got with Scott Williams at centre and Liam Williams at full-back.

It means that they will have to play a slightly different way to their usual emphasis on power and set-piece dominance which might actually be good for them.

All the teams will try and keep everything as familiar as possible and just treat this like a normal Test week, although playing on a Friday night may cause England a little bit of disruption.

Normally when playing in a World Cup away from home you tend to live in your own bubble, but that will be difficult on home soil because everyone is going to know who they are and want to wish them good luck.

Stuart Lancaster has spoken about the importance of playing with pride in the shirt, and as the energy and enthusiasm of supporters starts to grow hopefully that will benefit them in the best way possible.

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