Wales this afternoon host England in the Six Nations as they look to put off-field issues behind them after a torrid and tense week.
One of the standout fixtures of any Six Nations was just days ago still at risk of not going ahead due to an ongoing complicated contract dispute between the players and WRU, which led to the threat of a player strike that was only averted on Wednesday.
But such a compromise is only likely to paper over the cracks in an ugly civil war that has prompted more serious questions about how the game is funded in Wales long-term, with captain Ken Owens describing the situation as the “laughing stock” of the rugby world.
Warren Gatland has pleaded for unity in the hope that his side can feed off a siege mentality and become extra motivated to defeat their most bitter rivals and avoid three straight defeats to start a Six Nations campaign for the first time since 2007, following heavy losses at the hands of both Ireland and Scotland.
England also came unstuck against the Scots in the Calcutta Cup to kick off a new era under Steve Borthwick on a down note but dominated up front to brush aside Italy at Twickenham and claim their first win under Eddie Jones’ successor in round two.
The visitors will be preparing to face a wounded animal in a likely more hostile atmosphere than ever in the Welsh capital this weekend. With huge challenges against France and Ireland to come, England will also be very eager for victory here.
Wales vs England is the second match to take place during round three of the 2023 Six Nations after Italy entertained the Grand Slam-chasing Ireland in Rome and before France battles Scotland in Paris on Sunday.
The game is scheduled for a 4:45 pm GMT kick-off today, February 25 and will take place at the always atmospheric Principality Stadium in Cardiff, where England has demanded that the roof remain open.
How to watch Wales vs England
TV channel: In the UK, Wales vs England is being broadcast live and free-to-air on BBC One and S4C, with coverage beginning at 4 pm on both channels.
Live stream: Fans can also follow the game live online via the BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website and S4C Clic.
Live blog: Follow all the action with Standard Sport’s live match blog, featuring expert analysis from rugby correspondent Nick Purewal at the Principality.
Wales vs England team news
Wales have made nine changes to the side that ran Scotland close in the first half at Murrayfield a fortnight ago before going down meekly 35-7, with Cardiff center Mason Grady handed his Test debut in midfield in place of George North.
Josh Adams, Joe Hawkins, Tomos Williams, skipper Owens, Adam Beard and Christ Tshiunza are the only players to retain their starting berths from Glasgow, with experienced heads such as Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau all recalled.
Leigh Halfpenny and Louis Rees-Zammit start after injury, with Owen Williams getting the nod at fly-half for the first time. Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis return as props, with the likes of Dan Biggar, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell all dropping to the bench.
North, Liam Williams, Jac Morgan and Wyn Jones are not in the matchday squad at all, while Scott Baldwin, Leon Brown, Rhys Davies, Rhys Webb, Rhys Patchell and Alex Cuthbert all drop off the bench as Bradley Roberts, Kieran Hardy and Nick Tompkins step up.
There is only one enforced change to the England XV that started the 31-14 win over Italy, with Anthony Watson making his first international start for almost two years on the wing in place of injured London Irish speedster Ollie Hassell-Collins, with Henry Arundell kept as an impact substitute for now.
The fit-again Courtney Lawes is on the bench in a key boost for Borthwick, with Ben Curry providing back-row cover after twin brother Tom suffered another injury setback this week. Nick Isiekwe and Ben Earl drop out.
Waled vs England lineups
Wales XV: Halfpenny; Adams, Grady, Hawkins, Rees-Zammit; O Williams, T Williams; G Thomas, Owens (c), Francis, Beard, AW Jones, Tshiunza, Tipuric, Faletau.
Replacements: Roberts, Carre, Lewis, Jenkins, Reffell, Hardy, Biggar, Tompkins.
England XV: Steward; Malins, Slade, Lawrence, Watson; Farrell (c), Van Poortvliet; Genge, George, Sinckler; Itoje, Chessum; Ludlam, Willis, Dombrandt.
Replacements: Walker, M Vunipola, Cole, Lawes, B Curry, Mitchell, M Smith, Arundell.
Wales vs England head-to-head (h2h) history and results
England’s lone win in Wales since 2017 came at the Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli behind closed doors during the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup.
They were beaten 40-24 on their last trip to Cardiff in 2021, though held off a fightback to win 23-19 at Twickenham 12 months ago.
Wales wins: 60
England wins: 66
Wales vs England prediction
It’s hard to know what impact such a difficult few days and weeks will have had on this Wales squad.
Will they be galvanized by such a regrettable episode, develop a siege mentality and be keener than ever to knock off their most hated rivals on home soil?
Or will their respective energies have been totally drained by all the tedious in-fighting and attentions understandably drifted to matters more important than the game?
England was better against an admittedly well below-par Italy side to claim the first victory of the Borthwick era, but it wasn’t especially pretty with set-piece and maul winning the day in a dominant display up front.
While there were promising signs with Owen Farrell back at fly-half, Marcus Smith in reserve and a new midfield pairing of powerful crash-ball 12 Ollie Lawrence and the multi-skilled Henry Slade, not to mention the superb display from Jack Willis on the flank, they were too eager to put boot to ball in attacking situations in the opposition 22 and must resist the urge to do so with such frequency here.
Expect a typically punishing encounter between these old enemies, with huge hits and grueling physicality the order of the day and England just about coming out on top to exploit a truly rotten week for Welsh rugby.
England is to win by six points.
Wales vs England odds
Wales to win: 21/10
England to win: 2/5