England v Ireland - teams and predictions
NATIONS CUP, ROUND TWO: Eddie Jones has questioned whether Ireland can back up a convincing win over Wales with another dominant display against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Both England and Ireland head into their second Pool A match in the year-end Nations Cup on the back of resounding wins, with Jones’ men overwhelming Georgia 40-0 and Ireland hammering Wales 32-9.
Whichever side wins will be well placed to contest the showpiece match against the Pool B winners come next month’s finals weekend.
“Ireland were very happy with their dominant performance against Wales,” Jones said of an Irish team whose head coach, Andy Farrell, is the father of England captain Owen.
“As their coaching staff said, they were dominant, so the challenge is can they bring a dominant Irish performance to Twickenham?”
Six Nations champions England have won their last three games against Ireland, including an impressive 24-12 victory in February.
But Jones said of Saturday’s fixture: “It’s a huge step up from what we’ve been encountering in the last couple of games.”
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‘Enjoying the normal’
The year-end Nations Cup came into being after the traditional southern hemisphere giants – South Africa, New Zealand and Australia – scrapped their end-of-year tours of Europe because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said veteran Australian coach Jones of the new tournament.
“It’s a different format, every game counts because it puts you in a situation where you’re playing on the last weekend in the main game or in the Under-10 kick-off time, so you want to be in the main game and that’s where we’re aiming to be.”
He added: “We’re enjoying the format greatly. Whether this takes the place of the Southern Hemisphere teams coming, I think no one knows where we are going to be in 12 months’ time, so we’ll see.”
Saturday’s match will again be behind closed doors but former Australia and Japan boss Jones said England, last year’s losing World Cup finalists, were just thankful for the chance of playing at all amid the pandemic.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to play top-level rugby, the highest level of rugby in an environment when things are so difficult,” he said.
“You’ve just got to look at the number of people being affected each day by coronavirus, the number of people dying each day.
“I was talking to one of our players and in his family three people have lost their jobs. It’s a difficult time, so for us to have the opportunity to play rugby is absolutely fantastic.
“We’d like to have crowds and that would be the number one target, but paying games without crowds is the normal at the moment and we’re enjoying the normal.”
Players to watch
For England: Eddie Jones has beefed up his pack – starting by drafting in the successful World Cup pairing of flanks of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill. The dynamic duo was central to England’s march to the Final. They were overpowered by the Springbok brutes in Yokohama, but could make a statement against an equally impressive Irish pack. Props Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler were also drafted in to further add muscle to the England pack – clearly gearing up for a brutal arm-wrestle.
For Ireland: Ross Byrne, named in place of injured captain Johnny Sexton at flyhalf, will have a crucial role to play. In a game that is likely going to be decided by inches, his game management will be crucial. Two New Zealand-born players lining up in the backs – Bundee Aki (returning in the centres due to the injury to Robbie Henshaw) and livewire wing James Lowe – will also be in the spotlight. Aki has proven his worth many times in the past, but for Lowe it is a new start with his adopted country.
Head to head
England have won nine of their last 12 Tests against Ireland, including a 24-12 victory when they met earlier
this year in the Six Nations.
Ireland will be aiming for their 50th Test victory over England; they have already achieved this milestone against
two other nations (65 v Scotland and 55 v Wales).
England have won 26 of their last 29 home games, New Zealand and Ireland (both 2018) are the only
sides to pick up victories against them in that time.
Ireland have lost their last three Tests on the road (including neutral matches), they have not been on a longer
winless run outside of Ireland since a six-match span from October 2011 to June 2012.
Ireland slotted six penalty goals in their win over Wales last weekend, only once in the last 15 years have they
kicked as many in a match (6 v France in 2015 Six Nations), three different players scored their six against
Wales, the first time three different players have scored penalty goals in the same match for Ireland.
England was the only side on the opening weekend of the inaugural year-end Nations Cup to win 100 percent of their
line-outs, claiming all 22 throws they took; not since Wales at the 2015 Rugby World Cup (25/25 v Uruguay) has a
tier one side won more line-outs in a Test match.
England conceded just five penalties in their opening game of the year-end Nations Cup, the fewest of any side in
Round 1, while Ireland won 18 penalties against Wales – more than any other nation.
Elliot Daly has scored five tries against Ireland, those all coming in his last four games against them, only Rory
Underwood (7) and Cyril Lowe (6) have scored more tries against Ireland for England than he has.
Joe Launchbury’s next start for England will be his 50th, only three players have started 50+ games at lock for
England, Martin Johnson (82), Wade Dooley (54) and Danny Grewcock (51).
Owen Farrell has scored 102 points for England against Ireland, he needs six more to become England’s
all-time leading points scorer against them (Jonny Wilkinson 107).
Last 10 encounters
@rugby365com: England by eight points
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonathan Joseph, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Joe Launchbury, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Max Malins.
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Peter O’Mahony, 6 CJ Stander, 5 James Ryan (captain), 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Will Connors, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jacob Stockdale.
Date: Saturday, November 21
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Light cloud and a moderate breeze, with six percent chance of precipitation. High of 12°C and low of 9°.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Alex Ruiz (France)
TMO: Nigel Owens (Wales)