England v Ireland Preview, Team News, kick-off Saturday 4.50pm

Eddie Jones’ preview had many high balls jibes. The team news sees Maro Itoje start with Grand Slam hopes very much alive (kick-off Saturday 4.50pm).

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Joe Schmidt might want to look back at previous 6 Nations defeats at Twickenham as the catalyst for Declan Kidney and Eddie O’Sullivan exits. It’s not at that level of panic, just yet, but Ireland need to show a killer instinct that has been lacking since they tore a lacklustre France apart at the World Cup.

But after throwing away two victories from commanding positions in both games in the Championship so far, there is a need for players to step up. This is England. There is no extra motivation needed. It’s the biggest game for Ireland each year and the one every player wants to be part of. England have played reasonably well against mediocre opposition so far. This is as much a test of how Eddie Jones’ team have developed since Scotland and Italy. Despite his talk of bringing in an Aussie Rules team to counter the Irish threat, he should be concerned.

The George Ford and Owen Farrell 10/12 partnership has not been tested and when it comes to the crunch, this weekend could be a death-knell for that little experiment. The absence of Joe Launchbury and introduction of Itoje for his first start is big. How will he deal with coming up against the likes of Jamie Heaslip, CJ Stander and Josh Van der Flier? The continued playing down expectation by Ireland is rubbish. Ireland should be two from two. The introduction of youth will give Schmidt’s team the desired effect to get over the line.

Head Coach Talk:

Eddie Jones:

“Within the team there’s an excitement about playing at Twickenham, it’s always a good experience, but the most important thing is to focus on our performance and play some good rugby against a very well coached and very smart Ireland side.

“I’m very impressed with Ireland. They really use their resources well. Ireland is only a small country in terms of numbers but they use their centrally contracted players well and their players are very well conditioned to play the sort of game they want to play. It’s going to be a difficult task for us on Saturday but we’re prepared to play a very good game of rugby against Ireland and physically we’ll really take them on.”

Joe Schmidt:

Prediction: Ireland by 2

Key Duel: The front rows

Welcome back Mike Ross and it is a very welcomed return for the Leinster front row. In his absence, Ireland are not the same beast. The fact that the Ireland scrum can’t implement it’s game plan without the 36 year-old is so staggering. His absence was felt in the opening two games and now his return will boost Ireland’s chances to dominate up front and give the platform for their backline.

Team News & Lineups:

Ireland nearly have as many players out injured as are fit, but injuries is laboured excuse. It’s international rugby. If there is no depth, the problem lies with Schmidt for not creating any. Injuries happen to every team but good teams have no need to use it as an excuse. Perhaps now we might see a little bit more changes from Schmidt to provide more depth. Schmidt has worried that you can’t throw in a player into international test rugby. Looks like he’s set to do just that with Stuart McCloskey and Josh Van Der Flier.

England:

15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs.

1 Joe Marler, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 6 Chris Robshaw, 7 James Haskell, 8 Billy Vunipola.

Replacements:

16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Danny Care, 22 Elliot Daly, 23 Alex Goode.

Ireland:

15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray.

1 Jack McGrath, 2 Rory Best, 3 Mike Ross, 4 Devin Toner, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 6 CJ Stander, 7 Josh Van der Flier, 8 Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements:

16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Nathan White, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Simon Zebo.

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