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England and Wales set for epic Six Nations showdown at Twickenham

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IN A TITANIC showdown set to unfold at Twickenham on Saturday (Feb 10), England will vie for consecutive triumphs in the Six Nations, squaring off against their age-old adversaries, Wales. Fresh from a morale-boosting victory over Italy, England returns to their fortress for the first time since their unexpected defeat in a World Cup warm-up match against Fiji, an event that left them facing disapproval from their own supporters. Yet, the squad is eager to turn the page with a robust display in this pivotal encounter.

Wales, under the stewardship of coach Warren Gatland, is in a quest for redemption following a first-half performance against Scotland that Gatland lamented as “one of the worst 40-minute performances in my whole rugby career.” Despite staging a remarkable comeback from a 27-0 deficit, the Welsh side fell short, emphasizing the need for a significant turnaround as they aspire for their inaugural Six Nations win at Twickenham since 2012.

The England camp, buoyed by their recent success, encountered some growing pains as they sought to integrate an expansive attacking strategy and a blitz-style defence. Captain Jamie George remains undeterred, expressing unequivocal confidence in his team’s championship aspirations. For the first time since the 2019 World Cup final, England has announced an unchanged starting XV, signifying head coach Steve Borthwick’s confidence in his selections. The reintroduction of vice-captain Ellis Genge, following recovery from injury, as a substitution is the sole adjustment, hinting at a strategic depth on the bench.

Conversely, Wales has instigated a sweeping overhaul with seven alterations to their starting lineup, heralded by George North’s return to make his 50th Six Nations appearance after overcoming a shoulder injury. This significant milestone is complemented by strategic changes, including the introduction of Ioan Lloyd and Tomos Williams at half-back following commendable performances off the bench in the previous game. The forward pack sees Alex Mann elevated from the replacements in a bid to fortify the team’s dynamics, reflecting the urgency to rejuvenate their campaign with a landmark victory on English soil.

The historical rivalry between England and Wales adds an extra dimension to this clash, rendering it more than just a game. It’s a fierce battle for supremacy, laden with pride and passion. As both teams gear up, England’s line-up boasts the likes of Steward, Freeman, and Slade, among others, with Genge, Dan, and Smith providing reinforcement from the bench. Wales counters with a formidable selection, featuring Winnett, Adams, North, and a rejuvenated forward line aiming to challenge England’s dominance.

This match is not merely a contest of physical prowess but a test of strategic acumen and mental fortitude. With both sides possessing the talent and determination to prevail, this encounter promises to be a captivating spectacle for rugby aficionados worldwide. As the rugby community braces for this epic confrontation, the narrative of the England-Wales rivalry is poised for another exhilarating chapter, underscoring the essence of the Six Nations tournament’s competitive spirit. Fans are encouraged to stay tuned across all platforms to witness what is anticipated to be an unforgettable duel in the heart of London.

Team line-ups

England:

15-Steward, 14-Freeman, 13-Slade, 12-Dingwall, 11-Daly, 10-Ford, 9-Mitchell; 1-Stuart, 2-Marler, 3-George (capt), 4-Itoje, 5-Chessum, 6-Roots, 7-Underhill, 8-Earl Replacements: 16-Dan, 17-Genge, 18-Cole, 19-Coles, 20-Cunningham-South, 21-Care, 22-Smith, 23-Feyi-Waboso

Wales:

15-Winnett; 14-Adams, 13-North, 12-Tompkins, 11-Dyer; 10-Lloyd, 9-Williams; 1-Thomas, 2-Dee, 3-Assiratti, 4-Jenkins (capt), 5-Beard, 6-Mann, 7-Reffell, 8-Wainwright Replacements: 16-Elias, 17-Domachowski, 18-Griffin, 19-Rowlands, 20-Basham, 21-Hardy, 22-Evans, 23-Grady

TRAVEL WARNING FOR FANS

Rail maintenance work will affect journeys for rugby fans heading to Twickenham from Wales and the south-west on Saturday.

The line between Reading and Bracknell will be closed from Saturday 10 to Sunday 18 February, meaning supporters will need to amend journeys for the England-Wales Six Nations fixture (1645 kick-off).

Fans who would normally change at Reading for South Western Railway services to Twickenham can travel:

  • Reading – London Paddington on GWR or Elizabeth line, then Bakerloo line Paddington – Waterloo for SWR services to Twickenham.
  • Reading – Basingstoke on GWR or CrossCountry for SWR services via any reasonable route to Twickenham.
  • There is no additional cost if you travel via London Paddington or Basingstoke, however tickets loaded to a Smartcard will not be accepted on London Underground and you will need to pay for this journey. This ticket acceptance applies in both directions on Saturday 10 February 2024, only.

GWR Operations Director, Richard Rowland, said: “We know many fans travelling on GWR services would normally change at Reading for SWR services to Twickenham. On Saturday you’ll need to head on into Paddington or travel via Basingstoke before making your way to Twickenham.

“Please do allow sufficient time to make your journey and remember that trains will be extremely busy leading up to kick-off and immediately following the match.”

Community

Police launch urgent search for missing 16-year-old in west Wales

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POLICE are actively searching for a missing 16-year-old boy, known only as Kobi, who has not been seen since last week. The teenager has connections across various towns in west Wales, including Llandeilo, Carmarthen, and Cardigan.

Kobi, described as tall with shaved black hair featuring a purple tint, was last spotted in Llanelli. Authorities have urged the public to remain vigilant and report any sightings of the boy immediately.

A spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys Police issued a public appeal, stating: “Can you help find Kobi, who has been reported missing? Kobi is 16 years old, and described as tall with shaved black hair which has a purple tint.”

Anyone with information on Kobi’s whereabouts is encouraged to contact Dyfed-Powys Police without delay, as concerns for his welfare continue to grow.

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Community

Feedback wanted on regional transport vision

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VIEWS are wanted on the future of transport in South West Wales.

Covering Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea, a case for change that’s been developed for a regional transport plan is now open for public feedback until Monday August 26.

The case for change shows how the plan is essential to support the ongoing economic development of the region, while recognising its diverse communities and varying transport needs.

Aims of the plan include improving walking and cycling routes to local services, as well as achieving a shift away from private car usage to more sustainable forms of transport. Affordability will be at the centre of the plan to ensure access to transport is available to all.

Comments on the case for change will help inform a draft regional transport plan that will also be consulted on when it’s ready for feedback.  

Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro plans for an integrated bus and rail network will continue to be developed alongside the regional transport plan’s delivery in future. 

The rail metro elements are projected to add over a million journeys to the rail network, helping move more people out of cars and onto public transport than any other scheme in Wales.
Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader and Chairman of the Corporate Joint Committee (CJC) for South West Wales, said: “Adding to an outstanding tourism offer, South West Wales is undergoing a time of unprecedented investment, thanks to developments like the Celtic Freeport and £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal.
“These schemes – in combination with many others – will help create thousands of jobs for local people and attract even more investment to South West Wales in future, but we’ve also identified that our current transport network needs significant improvement to keep pace with these developments, while also better meeting the needs of local people in all the region’s communities – both urban and rural.
“The case for change – which also highlights the importance of affordability, climate change considerations and low-carbon transport – is intended as a guide to help inform the emerging regional transport plan.”
Cllr Darren Price, Carmarthenshire Council’s Leader and Chairman of the CJC’s transport sub-group, said: “The transport network is at the heart or our region. It takes us to work, education, healthcare and leisure and social activities both throughout South West Wales and further afield.
“It affects everyone, which is why we’re opening up our case for change for the regional transport plan for public feedback.
“With the population of the region also expected to increase in the coming decades, we need a transport system that accommodates existing and future developments in a way that supports sustainable travel choices, economic activity and social inclusion across the region.”
Head to www.cjcsouthwest.wales/consultation for more information and the opportunity to give feedback.
Email [email protected] if you have any queries.
Paper copies of the feedback form and consultation materials are available at:
Carmarthenshire: Ammanford Customer Services Hwb on Quay Street, Carmarthen Customer Services Hwb on St Catherine’s Walk or Llanelli Customer Services Hwb on Stepney Street.
Neath Port Talbot: Neath Civic Centre, Port Talbot Civic Centre or The Quays on Brunel Way in Baglan Energy Park.
Pembrokeshire: County Hall in Haverfordwest.
Swansea: The Civic Centre on Oystermouth Road.

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Community

Freshwater West named The Times newspaper Beach of the Year

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FRESHWATER WEST has been named Wales’s Beach of the Year, according to the annual best beaches guide by The Times and Sunday Times. The comprehensive guide, now in its 16th edition, lists the top 50 beaches in the UK and will be available in print on 21st July.

Chris Haslam, the award-winning chief travel writer for The Times and Sunday Times, described Freshwater West as “a wilderness of dunes, sand and rocks that draws surfers from across the world to ride its winter waves.” Haslam has personally inspected all 50 beaches on the list over the past eight weeks.

The guide evaluates the stunning beauty of the UK coastline using a meticulous 11-point checklist. This includes water quality, cleanliness, accessibility, parking facilities, lifeguard presence, hygiene standards at restrooms and showers, and dog-friendliness. For 2024, only beaches rated as “excellent” for water quality by national environment agencies have been included, and the guide exclusively covers mainland beaches.

Here are the best beaches in Wales according to the guide:

  • Wales’s Beach of the Year: Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire
  • Llanddwyn, Anglesey
  • Porth Iago, Gwynedd
  • Penbryn, Ceredigion
  • Mwnt, Ceredigion
  • Manorbier, Pembrokeshire
  • Pendine Sands, Pembrokeshire
  • Mewslade, Vale of Glamorgan
  • Oxwich, Vale of Glamorgan
  • Monknash, Vale of Glamorgan

Chris Haslam reflected on his travels, saying, “My Jack Russell, Dave T Dog, and I have journeyed 5,583 miles and explored 543 beaches. The 50 beaches that made our list are graced with outstanding natural beauty, superb infrastructure, and a clear sense of pride from those who live, work, and play there. I’m still in awe of the beauty of the UK coast. From Kynance to Caithness, and Brancaster to Benone, the beaches of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are the most magnificent on earth.”

For more details, visit The Times and Sunday Times Best UK Beaches.

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