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Aki and Parkes at centre of Six Nations decider

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    16 Mar 2019     Getty Images

Hadleigh Parkes for Wales and Bundee Aki for Ireland have been identified by The Times as vital to the outcome of the competition.

"After journeys that took them from Auckland and Hunterville to Dublin and Cardiff, via the hearts of Connacht and Llanelli, a grand-slam decider awaits for Wales and a last tilt at the title for Ireland," it said.

"Parkes arrived on the international scene in 2017 with two tries on debut against South Africa, translating his all-round footballing skills and ability to do the basic well from the red of Scarlets to the red of Wales.

"Form eluded him during last year's autumn internationals, however, and he was solid if unspectacular at the start of the Six Nations but in the rearguard win against Scotland, the 31-year-old put in a man-of-the-match performance," it said.

Both Parkes and Aki had become the go-to carriers through the middle for their sides.

"Ireland are wont to use Aki as a decoy runner, taking a similar out-to-in line to those of Parkes against Scotland.

"In this year's Six Nations, Aki averages 11.47 carries per 80 minutes, compared with 9.12 for Parkes. Ireland have more possession than Wales per match; when taken as a percentage of their respective teams' overall possession, Aki does 5.81 percent of Ireland's carrying, Parkes 5.11 percent of Wales'.

"The pair are fairly similar when it comes to defenders beaten per 80 minutes (2.87 for Aki, 2.81 for Parkes). However, Parkes beats almost twice as many defenders relative to their teams' overall values (13.11 percent v 7.32 percent)," it said.

While Parkes's distribution ability is recognised, Aki has averaged nearly twice as many passes per 80 minutes (8.61 v 4.56) as Parkes.

In the defence comparisons, Parkes averages 11.23 tackles per game while Aki makes 9.24 tackles. Both have a success rate of 88 percent.

"If you add up their average number of carries and tackles per 80 minutes in this Six Nations, both men are similar in terms of their involvements: Parkes makes 20.35 tackles and carries per 80 minutes, Aki 20.71.

"Aki has the bragging rights thus far in international rugby, the 37-27 win in last year's Six Nations the only time he and Parkes have met on that stage. The victorious side then went on to win the grand slam," The Times said.