Planet Rugby

Preview: Ireland v England

08th February 2013 11:09

Share:

England and Ireland scrum last year

Ready to go: Ireland and England

Having both picked up victories in Round One, the clash between Ireland and England is being viewed as a premature Six Nations title decider.

Addressing Sunday's match in Dublin as a sign for who will take him the trophy next month is a tad pre-emptive, yet England and Ireland both did enough on the opening weekend to suggest they possess championship material.

Starting with Ireland, we will be lucky if we witness as dominant an opening quarter such as the one Declan Kidney's side produced against Wales in Cardiff, from any team again in this Six Nations. Ireland were as brilliant as Wales were awful - with better execution, planning and power at the breakdown, not to mention a moment of magic from Brian O'Driscoll to add to his already vast collection.

That clinical edge that Ireland showed in Cardiff has only been witnessed in flashes over previous years - the win over Australia at the Rugby World Cup, last November against Argentina - since Ireland captured the Grand Slam in 2009.

Their second half however was a different matter. Ireland's well of possession dried up following O'Driscoll's try, forcing them into a defensive workout that by the end left their tackle count at 200 - with Cian Healy and Mike McCarthy making 21 and 20 respectively - along with the concession of three tries.

Arguably the contest was already over at 3-30, but Ireland's defensive lapses at one stage let concern grow as to whether they could hold on. In many ways it was a timely reminder that Ireland are far from perfect - enough to keep them humble and realistic before facing the "arrogant" English on Sunday.

Except England are not so arrogant anymore. Saturday's victory over Scotland was convincing and yet the immediate statement from Stuart Lancaster was that England could do better.

He is not wrong - four tries, a scrum and lineout with success rates over 83% and an impressive number of completed passes (221) are all positive signs - but more points were left out on the field.

Debate has been fierce in the build-up to Sunday's fixture about who should make up England's centre pairing and whilst a combination of Billy Twelvetrees and Manu Tuilagi may represent the future, the threat posed by Ireland in midfield is enough to make Lancaster think again and keep Brad Barritt.

The possibility of a Grand Slam in 2013 appears minimal given the proximity of the competition, but by the end of Sunday one more candidate will be snuffed out. We are set for a thriller.

Ones to watch:

For Ireland: The fact that Brian O'Driscoll still holds so much sway and influence aged 34 and after 127 caps is a testament to his talent. O'Driscoll offered a reminder of this against Wales and will be closely marked by England this weekend. His speed has gradually been replaced by power around the fringes - a test for any tired tacklers late in the game. Elsewhere, Donnacha Ryan will be charged with attempting to disrupt England's efficient lineout and prevent an easy platform for Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell.

For England Previous trips to Dublin have shown that if points are on offer, England cannot afford to let them slip. That focuses attention on Owen Farrell - the Saracens fly-half whose kicking form of late has been exceptional. Still only 20, Sunday is another test of Farrell's maturity and composure, although so far he has answered all the questions thrown at him. His midfield partner Billy Twelvetrees will also be under similar scrutiny after a promising debut, because he offers qualities at inside centre that England have lacked for some time - a markedly different player from when England last played a Six Nations match in Dublin and employed the battering ram that is Matt Banahan.

Head-to-head: A positive start for Jamie Heaslip to open his account as Ireland's permanent captain will have no doubt settled some nerves and silenced some doubters. Against England however, Heaslip will need to bring and give everything he has. His opposite man will be someone to whom the number eight shirt is fairly unfamiliar, Tom Wood. In outstanding form since his return from injury at the beginning of the season, Wood was one of England's top performers against New Zealand and Scotland. Despite few starts at number eight, Wood has the power and ability to handle the positional switch.

Recent results:

2012: England won 30-9 at Twickenham
2011: England won 20-9 in Dublin
2011: Ireland won 24-8 in Dublin
2010: Ireland won 20-16 at Twickenham
2009:Ireland won 14-13 in Dublin
2008: England won 33-10 at Twickenham
2007: Ireland won 43-13 in Dublin
2006: Ireland won 28-24 at Twickenham
2005: Ireland won 19-13 in Dublin
2004: Ireland won 19-13 at Twickenham
2003: England won 42-6 in Dublin

Prediction: This one is close. Ireland's home record against England - 2011's Rugby World Cup warm-up result aside - is exceptional over the last decade. The gaps between the two sides when it comes to the scrums, lineouts and breakdown are minimal, leaving it down to a missed kick from either Sexton or Farrell to separate them. Only a moment of magic will settle this and despite England's bright start under Stuart Lancaster, Ireland's home advantage could be the difference. Ireland by 5.

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Mike McCarthy , 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Keith Earls.

England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 James Haskell, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Manu Tuilagi.

Date: Sunday, 10 February
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Jérôme Garces (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Pascal Gauzere (France)
Television match official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

by Ben Coles
@bencoles_

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , April 19
Exeter vs SaleExeter vs Sale Preview
Bath vs WorcesterBath vs Worcester Preview
Wasps vs GloucesterWasps vs Gloucester Preview
Sunday , April 20
Northampton vs London IrishNorthampton vs London Irish Preview
Newcastle vs SaracensNewcastle vs Saracens Preview
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , April 19
Zebre vs EdinburghZebre vs Edinburgh Preview
Connacht vs MunsterConnacht vs Munster Preview
Sunday , April 20
Cardiff Blues vs ScarletsCardiff Blues vs Scarlets Preview
Newport Gwent D'gons vs OspreysNewport Gwent D
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , April 18
Castres vs MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , April 19
Oyonnax vs Toulouse14:55
Perpignan vs Toulon17:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Preview
Biarritz vs Brive18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles20:35
More Top 14 fixtures
Super Rugby
Saturday , April 19
Chiefs vs CrusadersChiefs vs Crusaders Preview
Waratahs vs BullsWaratahs vs Bulls Preview
Sharks vs CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Preview
Stormers vs LionsStormers vs Lions Preview
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins 24 - 20 LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 62 - 7 Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Report
Glasgow 27 - 9 UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 39 - 20 BluesHurricanes vs Blues Report
Melbourne Rebels 22 - 16 Western Force
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 13
Saracens 28 - 24 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Irish 40 - 12 NewcastleLondon Irish vs Newcastle Report
Saturday , April 12
Worcester 33 - 38 ExeterWorcester vs Exeter Report
Leicester 27 - 15 WaspsLeicester vs Wasps Report
Gloucester 17 - 18 BathGloucester vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Benetton Treviso 45 - 27 Newport Gwent D'gonsBenetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D
Scarlets 27 - 20 ZebreScarlets vs Zebre Report
Munster 5 - 22 GlasgowMunster vs Glasgow Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 20 - 22 ToulonBordeaux-Begles vs Toulon Report
Toulouse 16 - 9 BriveToulouse vs Brive Report
Grenoble 30 - 36 Montpellier
Perpignan 22 - 12 Oyonnax
Racing Metro Paris 37 - 7 Biarritz
Bayonne 24 - 19 Stade Francais
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 22 - 16 Melbourne RebelsChiefs vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Lions 12 - 25 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Cheetahs 31 - 52 CrusadersCheetahs vs Crusaders Report
Western Force 28 - 16 WaratahsWestern Force vs Waratahs Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 11
Sale Sharks 12 - 27 HarlequinsSale Sharks vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Ulster 58 - 12 ConnachtUlster vs Connacht Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens1976
2Northampton1966
3Leicester Tigers2064
4Bath1959
5Harlequins2058