Rugby World Cup warm-ups: Ireland hurdle vital for England to hop
All of the home nations are in action for the final Rugby World Cup warm-up matches a fortnight before the tournament gets underway on English soil and numerous selection questions still hang in the air.
Wales and Scotland will fine-tune their preparations with home games against Italy and France respectively, but there’s no doubting the marker will be laid down at Twickenham.
England take on Six Nations champions Ireland, who’ve pipped them on points difference to take the last two titles, taking in an accomplished tactical victory for Joe Schmidt’s side at Lansdowne Road in March.
Given it’s Ireland who represent the current Northern Hemisphere benchmark therefore, the winners are sure to gain a massive psychological boost so close to the World Cup.
Not many teams will visit Twickenham that close to the evens mark for victory, which is a sign of Ireland’s strength heading into this World Cup.
In fielding his final XV before a Friday night showdown against Fiji kicks off the tournament on September the 18th, scrutiny on performance will be fiercer than it’s ever been during Stuart Lancaster‘s reign to date.
Both team line-ups looks as close as is predictably possible to first choice and the general consensus is that holding back is not in either side’s remit in west London.
The selection storyline which has dominated the build up focuses on Rugby League convert Sam Burgess, though the Bath man will not be joining club mates George Ford, Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph in the backs, to start with at least.
Instead Joseph, England’s star of the Six Nations with a tournament-high four tries, will have to quickly strike a rapport with returning Saracens centre Brad Barritt, in what will form the 13th different centre-partnership of the Lancaster era.
Joseph is a 9/1 chance to ground the first try of the game against Ireland.
The front row stays the same as it did against France last time out, though there is some shuffling towards the back of the scrum.
Meanwhile, Ireland field 12 of the starters from their recent Six Nations triumph over England with regular half-back pairing Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton – so effective that day – in need of shackling by the hosts.
Skipper Paul O’Connell could not be dissuaded from sitting this one out either.
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