Sport Six Nations

Saturday 10 December 2016

Daily Telegraph rates Ireland and England teams for Six Nations battle - And there’s a clear winner

Published 26/02/2016 | 11:15

An injury depleted Ireland travel to Twickenham in desperate need of a victory to maintain any feint hopes of a title challenge, but have they the team defeat Eddie Jones' side?

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The Daily Telegraph has been running the rule, and according to Mick Cleary, Jones’ side, on paper at least have a clear edge.

Rating all 30 players out of 10, only Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray and CJ Stander are rated higher than their direct opponents.

While such articles never fail to stir debate and opinion, the ratings to the three debutants in particular is an interesting viewpoint. Maro Itoje is given 8/10, meaning he has higher rating than 11 of Ireland’s starting XV.

The Irish debutants however are marked at 6/10, despite the strong performances at provincial level of both Stuart McCloskey and in particular Josh van der Flier.

The home side are rated five points better off than the reigning champions and he is the full breakdown of the men selected for battle on Saturday.

IRELAND

15. Rob Kearney

The Leinster full-back may not be the force he once was but still a master of dealing with the high ball and a clever reader of the game. 7/10

14. Andrew Trimble

An experienced as well as dangerous wing, Trimble is alert to every possibility, a strong runner and intelligent support runner. 7/10

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13. Robbie Henshaw

The Connacht centre shifts across to the outside channel to cover Ireland’s injury absentees and will bring his fine passing game to that spot. 7/10

12. Stuart McCloskey

The big, banging Ulster man knows that this is his chance to make a mark, literally and metaphorically, potentially the Jamie Roberts of the Ireland midfield. 6/10

11. Keith Earls

Back in the mix, Earls is a slippery customer with ball in hand, pacey and elusive, but his defensive qualities are sure to be tested. 6/10

10. Jonathan Sexton

In the news for all sorts of reasons, Sexton has the chance to show the poise and dexterity that made him the stand-out fly-half in Europe. 8/10

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9. Conor Murray

The lynchpin of Ireland’s strategy, Murray has the all-round game to help his side cause an upset, both with his running as well as with his kicking. 9/10

1. Jack McGrath

The Leinster prop knows that he faces a tough day at the coal face with England focussing on their set-piece but is well equipped for the task. 7/10

2. Rory Best (capt)

The stalwart Ulster hooker is head-to-head with another new test captain and is sure to be as steadfast in his duties as ever up against Dylan Hartley. 7/10

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3. Mike Ross

The prayers and the rosary beads have done their job with Ross returned to fitness to help add ballast and nous to a depleted Ireland pack. 7/10

4. Donnacha Ryan

Ireland have been sorely hit in the second-row department with retirement and injury and Ryan has to dig deep to show that he can contribute to the full 6/10

5. Devin Toner

Toner has proved that he is far more than a towering beanpole, featuring prominently in Ireland’s loose play as well as dominating his key area of the lineout. 8/10

6. CJ Stander

Stander has already shown how shrewd a signing he was, coaxed from South Africa and developed with specific aim of playing for Ireland. 9/10

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Josh van der Flier

An unknown quantity on the international front, the Irish-born openside of Dutch descent is the poacher primed to pinch ball and negate England at the breakdown. 6/10

8. Jamie Heaslip

This is an occasion when Heaslip has to be at his best, strong, influential and involved, charged with getting to grips with Billy Vunipola and checking England’s momentum. 7/10

ENGLAND

15. Mike Brown

As feisty and flinty as ever, and will need to be to deal with Ireland’s kicking game which is sure to be a feature of the match. 8/10

14. Anthony Watson

There have only been glimpses so far of the trickery and pace of the Bath wing but he is itching to show what he has to offer. 7/10

13. Jonathan Joseph

The doubters, of which Eddie Jones was not one, have been silenced following Joseph’s sharply-taken hat-trick of tries in Rome. 8/10

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12. Owen Farrell

The stop-gap selection carries an air of authority about him in this position, Farrell using his distribution skills to great effect against Italy. 7/10

11. Jack Nowell

A well-executed try in Edinburgh shows just what the Exeter wing has to offer. A busy presence, always looking for work. 7/10

10. George Ford

Has grown in stature through the backing of Eddie Jones following a tricky few months during and post the Rugby World Cup. 7/10

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9. Ben Youngs

The Leicester man has got Danny Care snapping at his heels and will need to show that he has the authority and vision to merit the starting shirt. 7/10

1. Joe Marler

Another trade of starting places with Marler getting the nod ahead of Mako Vunipola, the Harlequin man all too aware that he has to maintain standards seen in Rome. 7/10

2. Dylan Hartley (capt)

Has handled the captaincy role well, not allowing it to be a distraction and knows that the set-pieces glitches seen against Italy have to be corrected. 7/10

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3. Dan Cole

The Leicester man is returning to the sort of form that once earned him the label of best tighthead in the game but there is more to come yet. 7/10

4. Maro Itoje

The 21-year-old has to now justify the hype that has surrounded his emergence and there is every indication that he will do just that. 8/10

5. George Kruis

Once the unknown man of the England pack, the Saracen has grown into the role of lineout king and heavy-hitter in the loose. 9/10

6. Chris Robshaw

The deposed England captain has shown just what a grafting, selfless operator he is by knuckling down to a new regime but will be keen to show what a force he can be. 7/10

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7. James Haskell

For all the sense that Haskell is another press-ganged openside, the oldest man in the team has played with youthful and intelligent vigour. 7/10

8. Billy Vunipola

Once a rather reticent figure on the field, the body language alone of Vunipola now speaks of a player at ease with himself and his role. 9/10

TOTALS

England 112

Ireland 107

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