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
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Preview
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs Canterbury19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26