• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

Andy Farrell’s men will need to be at their peak but that may not even be enough.

Mar 20, 2021

ENGLAND HAVE BEEN pretty clear about what they expect from Ireland today a good lineout, plenty of kicking, and lots of passion.
The English have actually been misguided in some of their expectations already this week, with their confident pronouncements that Peter OMahony would be coming straight back into Irelands starting XV proving wide of the mark.
But Englands assessment of what this Ireland team offer is accurate and it shouldnt be seen as a complete dismissal. A good kicking game and quality set-piece are the basis for winning Test matches and Ireland proved that last weekend as they snuck past Scotland having relied on those two elements, as well as the usual high work-rate levels.
While their attack has continued to be underwhelming and defensive slip-ups have been costly, Ireland come into todays clash with England [KO 4.45pm, Virgin/ITV] still fighting for a top-half finish and having steered clear of what once looked like the strong possibility of losing four games in this championship.
It would require Ireland upsetting the odds after Eddie Jones side impressed last weekend as they won a thrilling game against France, with key men like captain Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje nearer their best after poor starts to the Six Nations. 
Ireland will need to be at their peak for this one as the English look to finish their own frustrating campaign with a dominant performance in a fixture they have dominated in recent years. Even Irelands best might not be good enough if Jones men fully fire.
Farrells team selection clearly surprised the English as OMahony was named on the bench, but its a side that few would have predicted with total accuracy.
Irelands forwards have been in strong form in this championship under Paul OConnell and even with three personnel changes from the Scotland game, there is much to like about the pack Farrell has picked. Dave Kilcoyne rotates in at loosehead prop in place of Cian Healy and will offer a more dynamic ball-carrying option.
Conor Murray is back at scrum-half.
Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
James Ryan is missing due to injury a major blow but the outstanding Tadhg Beirne shifts to the second row from blindside flanker and will be alongside Iain Henderson, who is playing some of the best rugby of his career. Lions boss Warren Gatland will be watching both Irish locks with interest again today. 
The back row surprised everyone, with Jack Conan coming in at number eight and Josh van der Flier replacing Will Connors at openside after the chop tackling expert suffered a cruel knee injury while doing extras after training on Wednesday. 
CJ Stander, set for his 51st and final Ireland cap before retirement this summer, moves to the number six shirt, where his Test career began back in 2016 with a man-of-the-match performance against Wales. It really wont shock anyone if Stander is in the mix for that award again today and his impending exit add to the emotion of the occasion for Ireland.
The Irish backline also shows three changes, with Conor Murray returning in a very familiar halfback pairing with captain Johnny Sexton. They need to be at their best to steer Ireland to success.
Bundee Aki makes his first appearance of the championship with Garry Ringrose ruled out through injury, meaning a shift to the number 13 shirt for the in-form Robbie Henshaw. 
Jacob Stockdales comeback on the left wing will be fascinating. He is fully fit again after a recent knee injury and replaces James Lowe, who pays the price for last weekends poor performance against Scotland by dropping out of the matchday 23. The reliable Hugo Keenan and Keith Earls provide continuity in the back three. 
Farrell will surely call on the explosive qualities of Ryan Baird earlier than the final 10 minutes today, the 21-year-old Leinster man having provided genuine impact in the last two games, helping Ireland to salvage their win at Murrayfield. 
As for England, Jones has unsurprisingly stuck with a very settled team as he looks to build on the win over France. Henry Slade is out with a calf injury, so Elliot Daly comes back into the team at outside centre, offering a cannon of a left boot in the number 13 shirt. 
While the English kicking game will be important as ever, Jones will hope to see Ford and Farrell combine in the kind of playmaking fashion that saw them stretch and break France at times. With Anthony Watson and Jonny May out wide, England can be ruthlessly clinical at their best.
Owen Farrell was excellent last weekend.
Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO
With Kyle Sinckler keen to prove a point on the same pitch as Lions tighthead rival Tadhg Furlong, Tom Curry in superb form in the back row, and Billy Vunipola getting better with every game in this championship, England have enough weapons to extend their winning streak against Ireland to five games.
England have smothered the life out of them on the last four occasions with their ultra-aggressive defence, so Ireland will hope attack coach Mike Catt and Farrells plan can catch the visitors off guard when everyone is expecting more of the same.
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15. Hugo Keenan14. Keith Earls13. Robbie Henshaw12. Bundee Aki11. Jacob Stockdale10. Johnny Sexton (captain)9. Conor Murray
1. Dave Kilcoyne2. Rob Herring3. Tadhg Furlong4. Iain Henderson5. Tadhg Beirne6. CJ Stander7. Josh van der Flier8. Jack Conan
16. Rónan Kelleher17. Cian Healy18. Andrew Porter19. Ryan Baird20. Peter OMahony21. Jamison Gibson-Park22. Billy Burns23. Jordan Larmour 
15. Max Malins14. Anthony Watson13. Elliot Daly12. Owen Farrell (captain)11. Jonny May10. George Ford9. Ben Youngs
1. Mako Vunipola2. Luke Cowan-Dickie3. Kyle Sinckler4. Maro Itoje5. Charlie Ewels6. Mark Wilson7. Tom Curry8. Billy Vunipola 
16. Jamie George17. Ellis Genge18. Will Stuart19. Jonny Hill 20. Ben Earl21. Dan Robson22. Ollie Lawrence23. Joe Marchant
Referee: Mathieu Raynal [FFR]Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère [FFR] and Alexandre Ruiz [FFR]TMO: Romain Poite [FFR].