By Thomas Reynolds
Last Updated: 20th February 2019
England travel to the Principality Stadium in the Six Nations knowing victory will leave them long odds-on favourites to win a Grand Slam, with only Italy and Scotland left to play.
Eddie Jones’ men are 8/15 match betting favourites to record a third successive victory in Wales and as short as 5/6 to end the 2019 tournament with a 100% record.
However, if they’re to emerge victorious from the inhospitable environs of the Cardiff cauldron, the visitors will have to do so without one of their standout players so far in the tournament.
Why Mako Vunipola injury will be an enormous blow for England
Vunipola will be out for the rest of the tournament after injuring ankle ligaments against France last time out, but has already made a substantial contribution to England’s Six Nations campaign thanks to an exemplary showing in the odds-upsetting win against Ireland.
The loosehead prop chipped in with a massive, team-high 27 tackles as well 11 carries, as the team from Twickenham carried off a thrilling heist at the Aviva Stadium.
England coach Steve Borthwick has been clear that this is a significant loss to the Grand Slam chasers:
“He’s [Vunipola] an exceptional player. The leadership he gives, the presence he has, and the effect he has on those around him, that’s incredibly significant.”
“His work-rate is absolutely phenomenal. It’s a big loss and I’m really disappointed for him and disappointed for the team.”
Enter Ellis Genge: The Baby Rhino
Although Exeter Chiefs’ Ben Moon was sent on in place of Vunipola against France at Twickenham, the BBC report Leicester Tigers’ Genge will get the nod in Cardiff.
With the pair barely boasting double figures in international caps between them, inexperience is an unavoidable issue in replacing their world-class teammate.
While Genge may not be able to match Vunipola for matches played, he certainly boasts some of the same traits that have made the 28-year-old such an indispensable member of Jones’ squad.
Genge is an extremely powerful ball-carrier, who plays with aggression and a high work-rate.
While this may be his coming of age in the white shirt of his nation, it won’t be the first time he’s played in a victory over Wales. He played the last 15 minutes of the Twickenham success in May 2016, during which time the visitors were denied a single point.