Ex-Munster and Leicester player looks ahead to Ireland's clash with England
England are coming to town and the chariots are certainly in full swing. We always thought and hoped this would be the case but we also hoped we would be in a very different position to the one we are in now.
Ireland are low and wounded after lasts weeks’ game in Cardiff. England are arguably as high as they have ever been, with not only a grand slam on the line but also a world record. This is something that might even be of more importance to the ever-confident Eddie Jones.
I have been a big fan of Scotland throughout this campaign but to see the demolition job that England did last week is a bit worrying. I do think to a certain extent that Scotland froze on the day with what was at stake but England were extremely impressive. They well and truly put the Scots to the sword. Never letting up, continuing to play to the end and scoring the last two tries. This is a worry for me because when they have the bit between their teeth, I only think one team in the world can live with them.
They have threats all across the backline that can be released from anywhere on the pitch. This is made a lot easier by picking Farrell at 12, which provides a second set of hands to play from. His axis with George Ford is functioning at a high-powered level. He adds a different layer to their attack game with his work both on and off the ball.
On the ball he is able to pick out passes but also the right option nearly a 100% of the time. His work off the ball is incredible; he organizes and moves the forwards around the pitch so well. This takes a huge amount of pressure off George Ford and allows him to be a real threat on the ball rather than just being a facilitator type 10.
England’s George Ford. Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
This is something I feel Ireland lack, they miss someone who organizing on the run and that can act as a second distributor wider out and in multi phase. Gary Ringrose has shown signs that he can offer this, especially in the French game. He is growing in every game and some game soon he is going to turn those half breaks into full line breaks and this will add an extra dimension to Irelands play. Having Jared Payne back will help in this area also.
He is the stereotypical Kiwi, always talking and organizing in both attack and defense. Simon Zebo is someone who has been trying to stand in this role when Johnny Sexton is caught up. He has done it well but just feel that Zebo can be slightly shackled within the Joe Schmidt structure.
Looking at selection Conor Murray is obviously a huge lose but I felt Marmion did well when he came on last weekend. Having had those 30 mins in the melting pot last week will stand to him coming into this weekend. With him playing it might create a slightly faster game with is option of quick taps adding to the tempo of the game.
Judging by selection Ireland is looking to hold the ball and keep it in play. With Toner on the bench and no Peter O’Mahony our lineout options are on the low side, a tempo game with an extra ball carrying option in Henderson must be the plan. I don’t think Ireland can look to play a field position game with the team that is picked. With the lineout options England have trying to build pressure in this area will be very hard to do.
England’s Billy Vunipola is tackled by Scotland’s Hamish Watson. Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
England also look to keep the ball in play but in a different manor. Playing to width off a second set of hands and releasing those open field runners they have in Joseph Watson and Daly. Expect Ireland to get their ball carriers running at George Ford exactly like Wales did and this might be one of the main reasons for Henderson’s inclusion.
Tomorrow is going to be a hectic start just like last week but Ireland need to capitalize on their start unlike they did in Cardiff. Ireland like Wales are wounded and this makes them very dangerous. A proud Irish side trying to stop the old enemy winning a grand slam and setting a world record, adds a lot of spice to the occasion. No Irish player will want to give them that on their watch.
Lets hope for a performance that can stop this happening!
On a side note congrats to my old house mate Andrew Conway on being selected for the first time! Enjoy the occasion mate!