England return to Twickenham this weekend, with several more of the first-choice lineup set to feature against Ireland.
However, I can’t quite fathom what Eddie is up to with the midfield, reverting to the George Ford and Owen Farrell partnership and 10 and 12 that hasn’t started a match for over a year. That’s not to say I don’t like this option, and with Manu Tuilagi outside at 13, it could cause havoc to the Irish defence – it’s just that this close to the World Cup, I can’t understand why the England captain and key player is being played out of position.
Are we to blame Ben Te’o, who would have been selected but for the bust up with Mike Brown? Is it that Eddie’s team principles have left England to reshuffle in a bid to get their best players on the pitch, or at least to avoid having to pick Piers Francis?
Jonny May and Joe Cokanasiga feature on the wings, which could well be the first-choice pairing, and Elliot Daly gets another run at full-back. Anthony Watson is not in the squad, so does not appear to be in contention to start at 15, which is somewhat confusing.
Billy Vunipola starts at Number 8 once again, but I might rather be protecting the only 8 in the squad and such a pivotal player for England’s front foot gameplan.
Sam Underhill and Tom Curry will be an intriguing combination on the flanks, reminiscent of (although not yet in the same league as) David Pocock and Michael Hooper that were so devastating at the last World Cup. The pair should be able to improve on England’s weak breakdown performance from last weekend.
It’s a strong Ireland team, save for Ross Byrne in the key fly-half position who makes his first start, auditioning to be one of Jonny Sexton’s understudies. Otherwise the likes of Tadhg Furlong, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Garry Ringrose and Jacob Stockdale could well cause problems.
I fancy England to win though: the personnel changes should ensure a significant improvement on last week, and with home advantage in a match with little at stake, hopefully England will prevail.
England by 7