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Preview: England v Ireland

Preview: England v Ireland
  • England v Ireland, Twickenham Stadium, London, Saturday 24 August, 15:00

The World Cup edges ever closer and judging by the line-ups named by England and Ireland this week the warm-up intensity is set to rise another notch.

The World Cup edges ever closer and judging by the line-ups named by England and Ireland this week the warm-up intensity is set to rise another notch.

For Joe Schmidt’s Ireland there has been only one warm-up thus far, a 26-16 victory over Italy a fortnight ago, while England are coming off the back of a double-header with Wales – one won and one lost.

Head coach Eddie Jones has been tinkering away but this weekend looks much closer to his World Cup XV, five players retaining their place from the 13-6 defeat in Cardiff.

The big news is that George Ford starts at fly-half and Owen Farrell at inside centre, a combination that proved incredibly successful in Jones’s first two years in charge but hasn’t been used in over a year.

The back row will also be fascinating, with youngsters Tom Curry and Sam Underhill starting either side of Billy Vunipola – while Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May and Ben Youngs all get their first starts of the series.

For Ireland, returning to the site where they miraculously won the 2018 Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam in the snow, key man Johnny Sexton is rested and Ross Byrne gets an opportunity at No.10.

Jacob Stockdale, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Furlong are among the other stars to feature.

England v Ireland, Twickenham Stadium, London, Saturday 24 August, 15:00

WHAT THEY SAID

England head coach Eddie Jones: “The players have come back in a very good physical and mental state and we have had a good preparation this week. 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 come the 8th of September, when we get on the plane, we want to be ready to go. This is another step forward for us.

“This weekend we will be looking to gain more game fitness and testing different sorts of game strategies. We have a specific way of how we want to play and the focus is very much on ourselves.”

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: “Ross (Byrne) has trained really well and it’s not his debut, he’s had time with us before so that we’ve got a lot of confidence in him anyway and I think he built his way through the season.

“I thought he was maybe not as impressive as Jack (Carty) early in the season, and I think those two have become really important to us.

“The guys that need the time are probably Ross and Jack and they’ve got the opportunity to do that this weekend, that they’ll share a bit of time, I’d say, in the middle.”

KEY BATTLE – THE MIDFIELD

The midfields in this Saturday match-up will garner plenty of interest, with the starting XV pecking orders of both sides, and Ireland’s 31-man squad, still to be decided.

Byrne appeared to fall down to fourth in Schmidt’s fly-half pecking order during the 2019 Championship but gets a chance to prove his credentials against Ford – the Englishman battling for a starting shirt – and inside Bundee Aki who has an ongoing No.12 tussle with Robbie Henshaw.

English eyes will be on the combination between Ford and Farrell while Tuilagi is back to No.13 after playing the majority of the Championship at inside centre, could he cause havoc in his more usual club position?

GUINNESS SIX NATIONS – STATS POWERED BY AWS

  • When England took on Ireland in Dublin in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations they made 37 dominant tackles compared with Ireland’s seven.
  • Lineouts provided the best source of tries for both England and Ireland in the 2019 Championship – both with nine.
  • Following analysis of 3,085 rucks during the 2019 Guinness Six Nations Ireland proved to be the quickest at the breakdown, with an average ruck speed of 3.22 seconds.

MATCH NOTES:

  • England skipper Farrell partners Tuilagi in midfield for the first time ever, while it’s over a year since he started alongside Ford – when South Africa claimed a 23-12 win in Bloemfontein.
  • England have conceded an average of seven penalties per Test in 2019, while Ireland have conceded 7.7.
  • Ireland’s Jack Carty made three appearances off the bench in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.

England: 15. Elliot Daly, 14. Joe Cokanasiga, 13. Manu Tuilagi, 12. Owen Farrell (c), 11. Jonny May, 10. George Ford, 9. Ben Youngs, 1. Joe Marler, 2. Jamie George, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. George Kruis, 6. Tom Curry, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Billy Vunipola
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, 1. Cian Healy, 2. Rory Best, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Iain Henderson, 5. Jean Kleyn, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. CJ Stander
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