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Back-row battles key to clash with England.

STUART Barnes believes back row selection alone could decide Wales' clash with England on the second weekend of the Six Nations.

The outspoken former fly-half has described England's triumvirate as having been 'a patchup' throughout the tenure of Eddie Jones.

Barnes believes the side lacks balance in this department and says Jones needs to learn lessons from the Scarlets hammering of Bath in Europe when Zach Mercer and Sam Underhill, two England back row squad members, were outplayed by James Davies and Aaron Shingler.

Television pundit Barnes insists, despite injuries, that Wales have 'a plethora of riches' in the back row'.

"Both nations have back row problems. Wales have a plethora of riches, England a shortage of experience and a lack of balance," he said in a column for The Times.

"Wales got the better of England in Bath last week. A similar outcome is not expected at Twickenham on February 10, but if Wales get their back row selection right and Eddie gets his wrong, don't dismiss another Welsh win against England."

Barnes says Gatland is spoilt for choice in the back row.

He added: "Even in the absence of high class performers such as Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau, Warren Gatland has a host of options. "While Bath were being run off their feet at the Recreation Ground, James Davies and Aaron Shingler, two of the Scarlets back row, were playing their part in running them ragged.

"Shingler has made his breakthrough at Test level but Davies remains one of Wales' two single-asterisked squad members, along with Josh Adams the Worcester wing."

While the inclusion of Davies has been broadly welcomed by Welsh fans, Barnes sounded a note of caution.

"There is every chance Davies will remain uncapped, with Justin Tipuric expected to start instead of Warburton," he said.

"The Scarlets flanker is very much his own man. He speaks his mind. This doesn't always find favour with selectors.

"The argument that some players cannot make the step from club to Test level has been aimed in his direction. A question of size.

"Much of Wales is rejoicing in the squad selection of this outspoken and gifted openside. "Celebrations could be premature."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 21, 2018
Words:364
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