Wednesday 25 April 2018

Three key battles for Ireland's clash with England

Robbie Henshaw scored the decisive try when the side's met in the Six Nations earlier this year
Robbie Henshaw scored the decisive try when the side's met in the Six Nations earlier this year Newsdesk Newsdesk

Both Joe Schmidt and Stuart Lancaster have named strong teams for this weekend's final World Cup warm-up in London and these match-ups will be worth watching.

1) George Ford v Jonathan Sexton

Stuart Lancaster this week took the rather risky managerial decision to publicly heap pressure on young George Ford, by claiming that his direct rival for England’s number 10 shirt going into the Fiji game, Owen Farrell, is playing “better than I have ever seen him play”. Ford needs a big game, and will need the English defence to be on top so that he has ample opportunity to prove he is the more creative option for Lancaster. Meanwhile, Sexton is under pressure, too. His kicking against Wales was poor and he is all too aware this will need rectifying at Twickenham.

Jonny Sexton looked a little rusty against the Wels but there were flashes of brilliance and expect him to build on that tomorrow

Ireland’s Johnny Sexton, kicks clear despite the best efforts of Wales’ Dan Biggar during Saturday’s game at the Aviva Stadium

2) Tom Youngs v Rory Best

England’s line-out against the French in their previous World Cup warm-up outing was about as convincing as a Dylan Hartley ABH apology. Tom Youngs will hope to get things back on track against Ireland.

Meanwhile, Rory Best will be hoping to seize his chance after being handed his first start of the warm-up period. Both men have a point to prove.

BAGSHOT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Tom Youngs looks on during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park on September 3, 2015 in Bagshot, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

3)  Mike Brown v Simon Zebo

It was widely expected that Rob Kearney would be selected at full-back for Ireland, but he doesn't even make the bench as Schmidt opts for the rapid Simon Zebo, who plays in his second warm-up match for Ireland.

He'll be hoping to put in a better shift than Mike Brown managed in Paris. Brown—admittedly returning from a long injury lay-off—was not at his usual fleet-footed best against France, and he'll want to reassert his claim on a starting position in England's line-up this weekend.

1 September 2015; Ireland's Simon Zebo in action during squad training. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE

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