Thursday 22 March 2018

Lancaster expecting strong Ireland

Jamie Heaslip
Jamie Heaslip

Stuart Lancaster has denied that the loss of "very intelligent player" Jamie Heaslip will hand England an edge in the pivotal RBS 6 Nations clash with Ireland.

Heaslip could miss the rest of Ireland's quest to defend their Six Nations crown, after suffering three fractured vertebrae in his back during Saturday's 18-11 victory over France.

The 31-year-old has been sidelined for at least the next month, so will miss the tournament-defining Dublin battle against England on March 1.

France lock Pascal Pape is expected to face a hefty ban for the knee to the back that caused Heaslip's injury, but Lancaster does not expect his side to profit from the Leinster man's absence.

"He's a very intelligent player, very high quality," said England head coach Lancaster of Ireland number eight Heaslip.

"The guys who have worked with him in the Lions - Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree - regard him highly.

"But in the same way we miss one or two players as well. I still think it'll be a very competitive Ireland pack.

"With Cian Healy back in, their starting front row and their bench front row will be equally strong."

Ireland and England are now the only two unbeaten teams left in this year's Six Nations, so will meet for a potential title decider at the Aviva Stadium in less than two weeks.

England boss Lancaster fully expects to face a host of specifically-engineered plays from Ireland chief Joe Schmidt in Dublin, but can also reasonably predict a brutal battle in the pack.

Northampton lock Courtney Lawes could yet be fit to compete for selection to face Ireland, but Lancaster has hailed the growing Test influence of Saracens' fast-improving George Kruis.

Lancaster revealed that on video reviews of England's 47-17 Italy victory, the most common voice was that of 24-year-old Kruis.

The former Leeds coach revealed England's rearguard cry as "hammer the defence" - Kruis' most common refrain against the Azzurri.

"George Kruis' strengths are his athleticism and fitness, his ability to go 80 minutes," said Lancaster.

"What's really impressive is the energy he brings to the team and his ability to communicate on the field.

"When we review the game, you hear it through the ref-mic and the one voice you can hear above all the others is George Kruis'.

"We call it 'hammer the defence', and the only voice you can hear is George shouting 'hammer, hammer, hammer'.

"He really does talk well and bring a lot of energy to the team.

"Now he understands what international rugby is about I think he's adapted really well."

Press Association

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport