Monday 20 November 2017

Only six Irish make Telegraph's England/Ireland combined 15

Telegraph columnist Steve James selects his combined England-Ireland XV - is it the men in white or green who dominate?

15 Mike Brown (England)

Fair to say that neither Brown nor Rob Kearney are in the best form of their lives, with Kearney’s place not even considered automatic for once, but Brown is undoubtedly just in the better form.

14 Anthony Watson (England)

You just get the feeling that he is about to explode and do something extraordinary. Has not yet found his form of the Rugby World Cup but hard not to select him ahead of Andrew Trimble, for all the commendable industry of the Ulsterman.

13 Jonathan Joseph (England)

The hat-trick in Rome may have been a little flattering as to the real value of Joseph’s overall contribution but he is still a very difficult player to omit at the moment. He is a much more potent attacker than Jared Payne, for sure.

12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)

Owen Farrell had one of his better games at inside centre against Italy, but he really should be at 10 for England. Henshaw could yet be at 13 this weekend should Payne not pass muster, but his carrying has been particularly impressive at 12.

P55 Hensshaw decision.png
Robbie Henshaw. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile.

11 Jack Nowell (England)

Nowell had an excellent game against Scotland and looks a lot sharper than on previous England appearances, mainly because he has sorted his knee out. Ireland have injury problems here.

10 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)

Sexton has his injury troubles and he is clearly not the authority he was at 10, but I still think he is playing better than George Ford at the moment. Would have been close with Farrell playing at 10.

9 Conor Murray (Ireland)

No question. Murray is playing superbly well in all parts of his game and would be a shoo-in for a British and Irish Lions spot at the moment. England still cannot decide upon their best option here.

Conor Murray is preparing for Ireland's trip to Twickenham

1 Jack McGrath (Ireland)

Tricky one this. McGrath has his faults, not least in conceding too many penalties, but his tackle count has been extraordinary. Both Mako Vunipola and Joe Marler have brought more influence from the bench than when starting.

2 Dylan Hartley (England)

Tight call this as well. Hartley was excellent against Scotland but England’s lineout collapsed against Italy and he must take some blame for that. Rory Best is unlucky but I just think Hartley has a small edge in all facets.

3 Dan Cole (England)

Cole is back, even if he is still conceding too many penalties. Mike Ross will surely return for Ireland, as Nathan White has struggled, but it would be harsh to leave out Cole at this moment in time.

4 George Kruis (England)

Has been one of England’s players of the tournament so far, even if he will have been unhappy with the lineout in Rome. Wonderfully efficient and professional.

5 Devin Toner (Ireland)

Toner is lucky because he has not been playing that well, but the problems he caused England last year in Dublin clinch it for him. Would probably be Joe Launchbury (at 4 and Kruis at 5) but he was ill against Scotland and had to come off the bench against Italy, where he duly impressed.

Devin Toner. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

6 CJ Stander (Ireland)

Has been a revelation with his carrying game. No one from any country has made more carries in the opening two rounds. Will certainly be interesting when Peter O’Mahony is fit again. Chris Robshaw has been no more than steady for England.

7 James Haskell (England)

Strange, I know. Would have been Sean O’Brien had he been fit, but not Tommy O’Donnell. In fairness Haskell has performed his role (which is not that of a conventional seven) very effectively, smashing into contacts and tackling with immense power.

8 Billy Vunipola (England)

Was so good against Scotland that he simply has to be selected. In truth he is just continuing his magnificent form for Saracens this season. Jamie Heaslip was excellent against Wales but Vunipola is simply on fire.

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