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Ken Owens expecting titanic tussle between Billy Vunipola and Taulupe Faletau

Wales hooker Ken Owens believes that rival number eight powerhouses Billy Vunipola and Taulupe Faletau could "get the ground shaking" at Twickenham next week.

Many gripping individual battles are anticipated when unbeaten title rivals England and Wales go head to head in an encounter that should play a major role towards deciding this season's RBS 6 Nations title destiny.

But none more so than in the back row, where England's Vunipola and Wales star Faletau - the cousins who grew up together in Pontypool - look set for an immense contest.

They are among the form players in this season's Six Nations, with statistics emphatically backing up their exploits.

Vunipola made a staggering 58 carries across England's wins against Scotland, Italy and Ireland, in addition to completing 27 successful tackles.

Faletau, meanwhile, has 27 carries to his name, but the Newport Gwent Dragons forward completed 51 tackles during Wales' Six Nations appointments with Ireland, Scotland and France - and missed just two.

Their individual performances are likely to be major contributory factors as to which team emerges victorious in 11 days' time, with England unbeaten under new head coach Eddie Jones and Wales targeting a fourth Six Nations title of Warren Gatland's coaching reign, which they would achieve by beating England and then Italy a week later.

"They have played against each other plenty of times now," Owens said.

"A lot has been made of Billy's carrying, and Toby (Faletau) has been absolutely phenomenal in defence.

"It will be an interesting battle that could get the ground shaking. I don't think I've ever seen Toby have a bad game."

Wales' most recent encounter against England produced a 28-25 World Cup pool victory at Twickenham last autumn that nudged the host nation towards elimination - a job that Australia duly completed seven days later.

With Jones taking the reins in early December, though, England have shown immediate signs of improvement from the Stuart Lancaster era, which are performances not lost on Scarlets forward Owens.

"England have been good," he added. "They are not top of the Six Nations table for nothing.

"They are improving, and you can see how they're evolving under Eddie Jones. They are obviously favourites. They are top of the table, and we are going to their home patch.

"They have some consistent selections, and they've got some good youngsters coming through, so we will have to be on the money.

"Against England, we are going to have to go up another level and possibly beyond the level we were at in the World Cup.

"It's the old enemy and all that. It still gets the fire burning, but we will prepare for it like any other Test match."


From Belfast Telegraph