Saturday 18 November 2017

Joseph's double gives Irish much to ponder

England 47 Italy 17

Anthony Watson of England makes a break during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium on February 14, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Anthony Watson of England makes a break during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium on February 14, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Jonathan Joseph (2ndL) of England celebrates scoring his second try with team mates Billy Twelvetrees, Luther Burrell and Anthony Watson of England during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
England's Danny Cipriani (R) kicks the ball forward during the Six Nations international rugby union match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium in south west London. AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRKGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
James Haskell of England is tackled by Sergio Parisse (L) and Marco Bortolami of Italy during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium on February 14, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Dave Attwood of England wins a lineout ball during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium on February 14, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Mick Cleary

Joe Schmidt, the Ireland coach, has already booked in for overtime in the analysis suite, ready to pore over the tapes of Jonathan Joseph in full stride, stepping, gliding and scoring, diamonds in the soles of his shoes.

The England centre will be top of Schmidt's agenda over the next fortnight as the seminal fixture in this Six Nations Championship hoves into view.

True, Schmidt will also take note of England's unusually slipshod defence, their lack of sustained intensity and their sluggish starts, and look to exploit those frailties at the Aviva Stadium on March 1.

Any repeat and England are doomed in Dublin, no matter what magic may be conjured elsewhere.

Dealing with the white-shirted pack of forwards will also occupy Schmidt's mind, but 'twas ever thus when the English heavies come to town.

Less familiar, though, will be the threat posed by an outside-back who has "the X-factor", in the words of England's Mike Catt.

Joseph, 23, touched down for two tries, made more metres (123m) than any other player on the field, and all that despite being moved out of his normal outside-centre habitat to the wing in the reshuffle that followed Mike Brown's departure with a head injury so early on.

Genius is not easily corralled. And if that seems excessive praise of one so raw (eight caps), then no less a figure than the man to whom he is now being compared, Jeremy Guscott, used the term "Midas touch" about Joseph in a column.

Whatever might unfold in two weeks' time, the vivid emergence of Joseph (as well as Anthony Watson) has already rendered England's championship a success.

Italy scored three tries, two from another impressive centre on show, the Azzurri's Luca Morisi, with indecent ease. If England are so profligate against Ireland, then a swift revision of their World Cup prospects will follow. For now, though, the injection of style and potency into their attack can only boost their credentials.

Joseph has scored three tries in two games, slipping away with grace and relish against Italy for a score in either half on Saturday.

Brown will play no part in England's training sessions this week after sustaining concussion. He could, however, still feature in the side to face Ireland if he successfully completes a return-to-play protocol next week. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

England - M Brown, A Watson, J Joseph, L Burrell, J May, G Ford (D Cipriani 61), B Youngs (R Wigglesworth 66); B Vunipola, C Robshaw, J Haskell, G Kruis, D Attwood (N Easter 49), D Cole (K Brookes 58), D Hartley (T Youngs 58), J Marler (M Vunipola 62).

Italy - L McLean, L Sarto, L Morisi, A Masi (Bisegni 70), G Venditti, K Haimona (T Allan 70), E Gori (G Palazzani 70); S Parisse, F Minto, M Bergamasco (S Vunisa 58), M Bortolami (J Furno 45), G Biagi, M Castrogiovanni, L Ghiraldini, A De Marchi.

Ref - J Lacey (Ireland).

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