Preview: England v Ireland
WORLD CUP WARM-UP: With just under a month to go until the World Cup, England and Ireland are stepping up their preparations when they face-off at Twickenham on Saturday.
The significance of the match should not be downplayed.
Eddie Jones’ England side has already played two of their four warm-up games in their preparations for Japan.
It started with a convincing 33-19 win over Wales at Twickenham, followed by last week’s disheartening 6-13 loss to the same opposition in an arm-wrestle in Cardiff.
On Saturday, Ireland arrives at the home of England and both teams have brought out the big guns for this skirmish – a clear indication that they are upping the ante.
No doubt Ireland will pose another significant sterner test for England, who will be eager to avenge their heavy Six Nations defeat to the same opponents on home soil back in February.
Joe Schmidt’s team has been on a warm-weather training camp in the Algarve, with an experimental side beating Italy 29-10 in Dublin a fortnight ago.
That game was most significant for an ankle injury suffered by Munster flyhalf Joey Carbery that has left him in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup.
Both coaches are still playing down the importance of the scoreboard, but no doubt defeat for either will raise serious questions.
“This weekend we will be looking to gain more match fitness and test different sorts of game strategies,” England coach Eddie Jones said.
Jones, who has yet to feature his most contentious selection, uncapped wing Ruaridh McConnochie who was injured for both the Wales games, said the players had been in fine fettle during the week.
“The players have come back in a very good physical and mental state and we have had a good preparation this week,” said Jones.
“We purposefully made the week short looking ahead to the World Cup where this might happen beyond our control.
“It is the third of four games for us and comes September 8, when we get on the plane, we want to be ready to go. This is another step forward for us.”
England has one more warm-up match after the Ireland game – in Newcastle against Italy on September 6, prior to departure for Japan.
Once there England will begin their World Cup campaign against Tonga in Sapporo (September 22) before playing the United States in Kobe (September 26), 2015 semifinalists Argentina in Tokyo (October 5) and round off their pool matches against old foes France in Yokohama (October 12).
The Irish follow the England warm-up with a double-header with this year’s Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales, in Cardiff on August 31 and then Dublin on September 7.
Ireland’s first match in Japan is on September 22 against Scotland.
Players to watch
For England: Owen Farrell and George Ford will start a Test match together for the first time in over a year. Farrell returns to the starting XV – he was a replacement in the defeat to Wales last Saturday – partnering Manu Tuilagi in the centres with, Ford retaining his place at flyhalf. The last time Ford and Farrell started together was the second Test against South Africa in Bloemfontein last June 2018, which England lost 23-12. Ben Youngs comes in at scrumhalf – Willi Heinz having started against the Welsh in both Tests – with experienced prop Joe Marler getting his first start since coming out of international retirement.
For Ireland: The absence of Johnny Sexton and Joe Carbery offers Leinster flyhalf Ross Byrne, set to make his full international debut, the chance to book his place on the plane to Japan for the World Cup. The 24-year-old playmaker is competing with Jack Carty to be the third option to Sexton, with regular back-up Carbery battling to recover from an ankle injury. Byrne, who will win his third cap, will be partnered at Twickenham by first-choice scrumhalf Conor Murray. Veterans such as fullback Rob Kearney, flank Peter O’Mahony and prop Cian Healy return to a much-changed starting line-up to the one that beat Italy 29-10 in their first warm-up match earlier this month. Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose are in the centres. Grizzled hooker Rory Best – who like coach Joe Schmidt will step down after the World Cup – also returns to captain the side. South Africa-born lock Jean Kleyn is one of the few to start for the second successive match, as he teams up with Iain Henderson in the second row.
Head to head
Both halfback combinations – George Ford and Ben Youngs (England) versus Ross Byrne and Conor Murray (Ireland) have questions marks hanging over them. However, it is up front where both coaches will be looking for the important answers. George Kruis (England) will certainly test the mettle of South African-born lock Jean Kleyn (Ireland). And at No.8 the brute that is Billy Vunipola (England) will ask a few questions of Ireland’s other South African-born forward Christiaan Stander.
2019: England won 32-20, Dublin
2018: Ireland won 24-15, London
2017: Ireland won 13-9, Dublin
2016: England won 21-10, London
2015: England won 21-13, London
2015: Ireland won 19-9, Dublin
2014: England won 13-10, London
2013: England 12-6, Dublin
2012: England won 30-9, London
2011: England won 20-9, Dublin
Prediction: England beat Ireland 32-20 during the opening weekend of this year’s Six Nations. Ireland will no doubt be looking to avenge that defeat. England and Ireland have contested a total of 134 rugby Test matches since their first meeting in 1875. England has won 77 of those matches, whilst Ireland has won 49 matches. There have also been eight drawn matches between the two teams. At Twickenham England will always be short-odds favourites and we see them winning by 10 points or less.
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Jean Kleyn, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Tadhg Beirne, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Andrew Conway.
Date: Saturday, August 24
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Mostly sunny and very warm. High of 28°C and low of 16°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Alex Ruiz (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)
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