Thursday 14 December 2017

Waiting for Ireland's call

ENGLAND'S approach to the Six Nations is simple -- treat the World Cup as a bad dream and create as much distance from it as possible.

Stuart Lancaster received great credit for wielding the broom last week, but by placing so much faith in unproven players, there is a danger that the England interim coach has thrown the baby out with the bath water -- particularly as this new talent has been lifted from a competition (the English Premiership) that is consistently shown not to be as good as it, or Sky Sports, thinks it is.

If England fail to perform against Scotland, Italy and Wales in their first three outings, the knives will be unsheathed and Lancaster will get the treatment.

Ireland's situation is a little different. Although Declan Kidney's side were beaten more comprehensively than England in their quarter-final, the performances in the pool stages, notably the win over Australia, meant there was nothing like the same level of angst.

It also reduces the need for a clean break when Kidney names his 30-man Six Nations squad today. Indeed, the team that runs out against Wales next month is likely to closely resemble the one that accounted for the Wallabies.

Injuries force alteration to the squad, with Brian O'Driscoll, Jerry Flannery and Denis Leamy out of the running. David Wallace and Felix Jones are still out of commission, while the unfortunate Niall Ronan, a live contender given his excellent form this season, looks like being out of contention also.

So, change, while not revolutionary, is inevitable to the 30-man party and, encouragingly for Kidney, there is a group of in-form contenders ready to step up.

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