Preview: England v Ireland

Date published: September 4 2015

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Mischievous he may be, but Warren Gatland wasn't wrong when he said the pressure will be on the loser at Twickenham on Saturday.

Ireland travel to London to take on England, with both teams coming into the game on the back of a defeat, and hoping to avoid two straight losses before the start of the World Cup.

Stuart Lancaster and Joe Schmidt will be keen to play down the importance of the result, but the strength of the teams selected shows that both coaches are desperate for a win.

For England, the loss to France last time out was one of their worst performances under Lancaster, and despite the late fightback, was much more one-sided than the final scoreline suggested.

Their first choice pack was bullied up front, gave away a string of penalties, and showed the kind of fragility that the rest of the Pool A big guns will have relished.

The troubles at the breakdown were equally worrying, and with Ireland putting out their first choice back-row Chris Robshaw and company need to step up.

When the teams met in the Six Nations, Ireland taught England a lesson in clinical rugby, with George Ford enduring a tough afternoon against a supremely organised team.

Combine that with undoubtedly his worst display in an England jersey, a fortnight ago, and the pressure is on Ford to deliver. He knows that Owen Farrell is breathing down his neck for a starting role when England return to Twickenham in a fortnight to take on Fiji.

Of course his job will be much easier if his pack can stand up to their Irish counterparts this weekend, and ease some of the concerns before taking on the group of death.

Ireland had a mixed team out against Wales, but will have been worried by the way they struggled to cope against a powerful Welsh side, making little impression with ball in hand.

The return of Sean O'Brien to the starting line-up should help in that regard, and with a near full-strength team out, the pressure is on to match pool rivals France and turn England over.

Team news: England have made five changes to the team that lost in Paris, with Anthony Watson given a chance on the wing instead of Jack Nowell, while fit-again Brad Barritt replaces the cut Luther Burrell. In the pack Ben Morgan has a chance to prove his fitness at number eight, with Tom Wood also starting in place of James Haskell. Finally Geoff Parling is preferred to Joe Launchbury in the second-row.

Ireland have also rung the changes, with seven new faces in all. Simon Zebo comes in at full-back, with Tommy Bowe earning a start on the right wing. In midfield Jared Payne returns to link up with Robbie Henshaw, while Sean O'Brien also comes into the back-row with Peter O'Mahony. Ireland's best player in Dublin, Iain Henderson, has to settle for a place on the bench with Devin Toner preferred, while the front-row sees starts for Mike Ross and Rory Best in what is virtually a full-strength team.

Players to watch:

For England: England's set-piece was a mess against France last time out, and that has almost directly resulted in a recall for Geoff Parling. His combination with Tom Youngs is key for England in the lineout, because Paul O'Connell and company will fancy their chances of getting at the Leicester hooker. If the England lineout goes well though, Parling will probably have secured a starting spot for the big World Cup games. Elsewhere in the pack, Ben Morgan needs to prove that his fitness is up to the rigors of a World Cup after being given the start ahead of Billy Vunipola. At his best he can be devastating, but can he do it for more than a half in his current state?

For Ireland: Rob Kearney is as dependable as they come under the high ball, and has been incredibly consistent for Ireland at full-back. Still, the sight of Simon Zebo at the back just adds that touch of excitement and will ensure England's tactical kicking has to be spot on. He may be more at home on the wing, but the added space at full-back seems to suit Zebo, and he will hope to get some chances to show that off at Twickenham. In the pack Devin Toner might feel he has a point to prove after Iain Henderson was outstanding last time out against Wales. The giant Leinsterman is deservedly first choice, but he will hope to cause the English lineout plenty of problems and get involved around the park just to stave off any speculation over his place in the team.

Head to head: The midfield battle will be crucial in this one, and both Stuart Lancaster and Joe Schmidt have named what we expect to be their first-choice centre pairings. While Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne impressed during the Six Nations, Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph have played just 14 minutes together, back in 2012. With the alternatives in the squad at centre combining for two caps between them, the pressure is on Barritt and Joseph to show they are up to the challenge, Henshaw and Payne will be a good test first up, with Henshaw keen to add to the winning try he scored in Dublin in March.

Previous results: 

2015: Ireland won 19-9 in Dublin
2014: England won 13-10 in London
2013: England won 12-6 in Dublin
2012: England won 30-9 in London
2011: England won 20-9 in Dublin
2011: Ireland won 24-8 in Dublin
2010: Ireland won 20-16 in London
2009: Ireland won 14-13 in Dublin
2008: England won 33-10 in London
2007: Ireland won 43-13 in Dublin

Prediction: Both sides know that a win is vital for confidence, with strong teams named accordingly by Stuart Lancaster and Joe Schmidt. We think the Kiwi might just get the better of England on Saturday, with that Irish back-row primed to cause England all sorts of problems. Ireland by 3!

The teams:

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sam Burgess.

Ireland: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Tadhg Furlong, 18 Nathan White, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Darren Cave.

Date: Saturday, September 5
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-Off: 14:30 local
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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