CARDIFF (Reuters) – Wales beat England 13-6 in Cardiff on Saturday to go top of the official world rankings and avenge their loss in the reverse fixture last Sunday as the Rugby World Cup looms.
A fired-up Wales, fielding a near full-strength side against a more mixed England lineup for their second warm-up game in a row, scored the only try of an error-strewn encounter through winger George North.
Flyhalf and man of the match Dan Biggar, in the spotlight after Gareth Anscombe was ruled out of the World Cup, impressed with a smart cross-field kick for North’s try after England’s Anthony Watson had been yellow-carded.
Former British and Irish Lions wing JJ Williams had stirred controversy before the match by saying Wales would not win the World Cup with Biggar at fly-half.
“Special thanks to JJ Williams for all his comments this week, it’s been really motivating,” man-of-the-match Biggar said.
The win was tempered by the late withdrawal of Wales full back Liam Williams with a tight hamstring, adding to the hosts’ concerns following Anscombe’s ankle injury in the previous fixture.
Back rowers Aaron Wainwright and Josh Navidi were prominent in Wales’s much-improved defensive effort, while fullback Leigh Halfpenny weathered a few early slips to deliver some fine attacking play as well as three points from the boot.
Few of England’s fringe players advanced their claims for a starting spot, with the visitors scoreless in the first half and lacking momentum until more established stars like Jamie George and Owen Farrell came on in the third quarter.
George Ford, captain for the day, again showed signs of wayward kicking from the hand that had been his only flaw in a strong performance in the previous match, while scrumhalf Willi Heinz was less effective than at Twickenham.
Ford notched England’s only points in the game from two penalties.
For coach Eddie Jones, the main positives of a stodgy performance will be the lack of injuries apart from the pre-game withdrawal of winger Ruaridh McConnochie, and some brilliant late-game charges from replacement hooker George.
(Reporting by Lawrence White; editing by Tony Lawrence)