Wales down England in Rugby World Cup warm-up opener

England’s lock George Martin (L) tackles Wales’ prop Corey Domachowski (C) during the pre-World Cup Rugby Union match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on August 5, 2023. AFP

Wales launched their Rugby World Cup warm-up campaign with a 20-9 win against an uninspired England in Cardiff on Saturday.

Second-half tries by scrum-half Gareth Davies and centre George North proved the difference at the Principality Stadium as Wales, without the retired trio of Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb, avoided a fifth successive home loss.

A second-string England failed to cross Wales’ line and didn’t score a point in the second half.

“I was looking for a performance and that was a good start,” Wales boss Warren Gatland told Amazon Prime.

“It was the performance (not the result) I was interested in and I thought we looked comfortable in the last 20 minutes.”

Arguably, more England players harmed their World Cup chances in a lacklustre display featuring 22 turnovers and numerous handling errors than booked their place in a tournament squad due to be announced by coach Steve Borthwick on Monday.

“In the first half we created lots of opportunities, we turned over too much ball in the opposition 22, we can’t do that in Test rugby,” said Borthwick.

“Immediately there are some areas for improvement, but the positives were how many entries we got into the opposition’s scoring zone.”

The former England captain added: “Credit to Wales in that 50-65 minute period, they were very, very good.”

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny won his 100th Wales cap in a side led for the first time by 23-year-old Ospreys flanker Jac Morgan and featuring three new caps in props Corey Domachowski and Keiron Assiratti and centre Max Llewellyn.

England, 20-10 Six Nations winners at Cardiff in February, started with Marcus Smith at fly-half, rather than regular captain Owen Farrell.

A host of new combinations contributed to an error-strewn start by both teams and Wales hooker Ryan Elias went off injured early on.

England led 9-6 at half-time, Smith kicking three penalties to Halfpenny’s two after both teams had gone close to a try.

But it was Wales who broke the game open in the 47th minute.

Fly-half Sam Costelow’s crossfield kick found Aaron Wainwright, with the No 8 passing to Morgan, who beat two defenders and released Davies for a score Halfpenny converted.

Wales pulled further clear with another converted try approaching the hour mark.

Senior fly-half Dan Biggar, on as a replacement, produced a clever chip that bounced kindly for wing Louis Rees-Zammit.

The ball was spread wide to the right and unmarked powerhouse midfielder North went in between the posts.

Rees-Zammit went close to a third try late on as he chased his own kick but was ruled to have knocked on.

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