George Hook reckons there is one Irish star playing for his international life
After easing to victory over Canada in the opening pool match, the Six Nations champions now face Romania, who put up a stern test to France in their first game of the tournament.
Nothing less than a bonus-point victory is expected with Italy and particularly France looming on the horizon and while the result will not be in doubt, Hook believes the individual battles will be noteworthy than the collective.
“There’s going to be no South Africa this afternoon,” he told independent.ie.
“Romania are going to be beaten, Ireland are going to get a bonus point and normal service in this World Cup is going to be resumed.
Two-time Lions international Bowe is under pressure having lost his place in the team following below-par performances and Hook believes the 31-year-old badly needs a big performance in Wembley.
“Tommy Bowe is playing for his international life. Because you would have to think at this moment [Dave} Kearney and [Keith] Earls are in Schmidt’s mind to start on the wings.
“Simon Zebo seems out of the frame, he now appears to be the reserve full-back. There are individual rather than collective performances here. We’re going to find out if Cian Healy really is fit.”
Jared Payne is one of only three survivors from the victory over Canada and will have Darren Cave as his midfield partner. The battle for the 13 and 12 jerseys is a fascinating according to the Irish Independent columnist, with Robbie Henshaw’s injury adding to the intrigue surrounding Schmidt’s selection.
“The fact that Schmidt has picked Payne seems to indicate he’s not certain either by the injury to Robbie Henshaw or Payne’s performance, that his plan coming in that Payne and Henshaw were the number one centre partnership, only based on what we see, does not appear to be guaranteed.
“Therefore the fact that Fitzgerald played in the centre last week, is sitting this week now, maybe means that he is thinking about Fitzgearld for next week. Either as an inside centre if Henshaw is unfit or instead of Payne if Schmidt doesn’t think he’s up to it.”
Hook is in little doubt regarding the result and thinks the bookies spread is rather generous to Romania.
“I’m looking forward to this afternoon because I’ll be looking for individuals. Four tries? They could have them by half-time. I think they could beat the spread of 42 points as well.”
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