Date: 27th August 2011
Time: 14:30 GMT
Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
To say that this was an important game for both sides, would be a massive understatement. It’s the last game either team play before they head to New Zealand next week for the World Cup. Ireland are probably under more pressure than England going into this game they have lost all three of the warm-up games. England have beaten, and been beaten, by Wales in their two warm-up games.
Martin Johnson has made 6 changes to the side that lost to Wales a fortnight ago. The new centre partnership of Tindall and Tuilagi has no doubt given Declan Kidney nightmares this week. Jonny Wilkinson claims the out-half jersey from Toby Flood and is joined in the half backs by Saracen’s Richard Wigglesworth. London Wasps scrumhalf Joe Simpson makes the bench in what is set to be his international debut.
The precautionary absence of Brian O’Driscoll following a minor shoulder injury in the France game, means that the captaincy will be in the safe hands of Paul O’Connell. More worrying for Kidney is the news that Sean O’Brien is set to be out of action for a fortnight after picking up a knee injury. Stephen Ferris starts his first warm-up game as does Munster’s Jerry Flannery and David Wallace. Veteran fullback Geordan Murphy also starts and travels to New Zealand following the ankle injury to Felix Jones.
What to expect:
England will be keen to get some decent attacking backline moves, we all know what their pack can do and going into the World Cup they could do with an extra string to their bow. Tommy Bowe is making his first appearance in a green jersey since the 6-Nations and will be keen to make his mark. The Irish pack did well in the scrums last week against France and they will be keen to keep parity against a much bigger pack this weekend.
All eyes on:
England’s physical dominance over the Irish is most evident in the mis-match of the center pairings, Mike Tindall and Manu Tuilagi will face Gordon D’Arcy and Keith Earls. I would also expect England to target the Irish 10-12 channel as this is where they are weakest. Jonny Wilkinson will no doubt provide plenty of opportunities to test Irish lineout, which has shown a great improvement in the last two matches.
Last fixture: March 19, 2011, Ireland 24-8 England, Dublin.
Weather: Chance of showers.
Ireland will be keen to get a win under their belt and always up their game when England come to town, so on that basis, I’m going for an Ireland win by 6 points.