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MATCH THREAD: England vs Ireland; Twickenham Stadium, Sat 17th March 14:54; TV3,ITV

  • 16-03-2018 3:21pm
    Registered Users Posts: 24,710 ✭✭✭✭



    This is it. Grand Slam Super Saturday. With 19 from a possible 20 points, Ireland are already deserved winners of this years 6 Nations Championship. But can they go one further and make it a Slam? Eddie Jones' wounded England lays in wait in Twickenham. Two losses on the bounce and serious question marks around their ability to adapt to what's going on in front of them have left them with nothing but pride to play for. Pride and revenge, after Ireland derailed their Grand Slam hopes last season. So will Ireland realise their potential, or will England exact their revenge?

    Joe Schmidt has made just 1 change to the Irish squad travelling to London. Iain Henderson is promoted to the bench with Devin Toner dropping down in his place. This is as settled an Irish side as we've seen this tournament, with confidence and belief both high. There is experience and there is youth. There is strength and speed. There is a clarity within this side that allows them to go over 40 phases in tough conditions and wrestle a victory from almost certain defeat.

    This is in stark contrast to England, who have made several changes to their squad for Saturday. Gone are the playmakers at 10 and 12 most importantly, which will change how they approach the game quite significantly. Issues at the breakdown have plagued this team for the last 2 rounds based on tactical naivety and poor selection. A first loss to Scotland in 10 years was followed by a loss to what is a poor French side, who looked as much in the opening exchanges last week. The confidence, belief and clarity that Ireland have seem sorely lacking from the English players right now.

    There is vulnerability too in this Irish side too though. Defensive issues have been prevalent in all 4 games, particularly in terms of numbering up properly and making good decisions in the wider channels. Some of this can be put down to inexperience and a lack of familiarity among certain players. However it is still a concern. Improvements were made ahead of the Scotland game, but still the Scots managed to get in behind us on a number of occasions and really should have scored at least 1 more try. With a back 3 of Daly, May and Watson, England certainly have the ablilty to exploit any issues in those wider channels if they can get the ball out to those areas quickly and accurately.

    This would have been easier to do had they gone with Ford-Farrell at 10 and 12. The distribution options that axis offers could do similar damage to us as Scotland and Wales both did. However, with England simply not coming close to winning the battle at the ruck, Ford wasn't able to get the kind of service he could thrive on. And in the absence of that his performances suffered badly. Clearly Jones doesn't feel that they can guarantee good, clean ruck ball for his back line. And that probably makes sense as Ireland have been the side that have controlled the ball better than any other team in the tournament so far. The Irish pack are all strong at the breakdown, but our backs too have been more than able to contribute to that cause. Bundee Aki has been a workhorse in that regard, but we even saw Jordan Larmour getting stuck in during his brief appearances. And so England have opted for a single playmaker inside a hard running inside centre. Could they be looking to play a territorial game?

    Englands line out has been very effective this season with only 3 lost line outs over all 4 games and they have been able to put real pressure on opposition throws too. They've been able to do this, though, in no small part down to the fact that they've had 3 locks on the pitch at the one time. With Lawes injured this is no longer the case. Ireland, for their part, have taken out arguably the safest line out option in the northern hemisphere in Devin Toner. This is potentially an area that England can target and I'd expect Farrell to be doing a good deal of kicking.

    The battle up front will be an interesting one. Ireland have a pack that can go toe to toe, and possibly further, with the home side. Irelands bench as well has serious impact on that front. At half back Ireland are surely the better side too with Murray-Sexton being a better combination than Wigglesworth-Farrell. The 2 centre pairings probably match up reasonably well, but Ringrose I think has an edge on Joseph. Aki too would have more to his game than Te'o. And while the back 3 for England is very strong, Irelands are pretty good too. The only area where England have a clear advantage is from 21-23, where their options are more experienced at this level.

    For me, Ireland have to be going into this as favourites by a score. We're the better team, playing better rugby. But that will count for nothing once the teams take the field. England will be highly motivated for this one and that may give them an edge in contact. But this Irish side is going in well prepped. If we get stuck in early and get an early score or two on the board I'd back us to go all the way. Failing some sort of injury crisis or a complete reversal of form for both sides I just can't see how or where England are going to get the win.

    Ireland for the Slam!


    15: Anthony Watson|15: Rob Kearney
    14: Johny May|14: Keith Earls
    13: Jonathan Joeseph|13: Garry Ringrose
    12: Ben Te'o|12: Bundee Aki
    11: Elliot Daly|11: Jacob Stockdale
    10: Owen Farrell|10: Jonathan Sexton
    09: Richard Wigglesworth|09: Conor Murray
    01: Mako Vunipola|01: Cian Healy
    02: Dylan Hartley|02: Rory Best
    03: Kyle Sinckler|03: Tadgh Furlong
    04: Maro Itoje|04: James Ryan
    05: George Kruis|05: Iain Henderson
    06: Chris Robshaw|06: Peter O'Mahony
    07: James Haskell|07: Dan Leavy
    08: Sam Simmonds|08: CJ Stander
    16: Jamie George|16: Sean Cronin
    17: Joe Marler|17: Jack McGrath
    18: Dan Cole|18: Andrew Porter
    19: Joe Launchbury|19: Devin Toner
    20: Don Armand|20: Jordi Murphy
    21: Danny Care|21: Kieran Marmion
    22: George Ford|22: Joey Carbery
    23: Mike Brown|23: Jordan Larmour
    Failed to load the poll.


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,569 ✭✭✭✭ProudDUB

    Which match thread is the official one? My poor frazzled nerves can't handle not one, but TWO match threads !