England v Ireland: Rugby World Cup warm-up – as it happened – The Guardian
Afternoon, folks. This is it then, the last chance for these two teams to get everything rosy and perfect before IT starts.
This is, as I probably don’t need to tell you, the final warm-up match for both of these teams before the whole World Cup thing gets underway in a little under two weeks’ time.
The sense is that Ireland, despite a disappointing defeat to Wales last weekend, are in slightly better shape than their hosts right now. Saturday’s match was one of the most full-blooded, physical friendlies you’ll ever see and Ireland, despite the loss, played OK against a monstrous Welsh defence. The lack of creativity might be a slight concern, but their biggest issue today is going to be getting through with no further injuries.
If Ireland can win at Twickenham then don’t be surprised to see them in the final come mid-October. They are favourites to top their pool and that would give them a favourable run to the semis, where there is every chance they could meet England. As Rob Kitson mentions in this wonderful piece (I implore you, take the time to give it a read), there is little love lost between the two sets of fans; it would be a mighty fired-up and mighty confident Ireland that would take the field in that scenario.
For England the signs are more worrying. Rob Andrew and Lewis Moody have both said this week that this England team is not yet at its best. Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph are likely to be their first-choice centre pairing and they have all of 14 minutes’ game time together before today. The lineout is a worry too.
Geoff Parling, the lineout captain on whom so many hopes rest on account of his familiarity with Youngs from Leicester says that there is nothing to worry about. That you don’t become a bad lineout unit overnight. In a way he’s right, but in another, more accurate way, he’s wrong. Tom Youngs, for all his worth as a ball carrier, is a terrible hooker in the set piece. For a couple of years now England’s lineout has gone from the most reliable in the game to a complete mess as soon as he’s taken to the field. Call me old fashioned, but I always thought a functioning lineout was important; you could argue that the England player to have come out of these warm-ups best is Dylan Hartley.
Still, let’s not write England off just yet. They showed hints of what they can do in the late comeback against France in Paris (largely thanks to the performances of, er, Luther Burrell and Danny Cipriani) and the whole Twickenham thing is a huge factor. Stuart Lancaster has been criticised for leaving questions unanswered so late, but then the flip side of that is that we don’t know what this England team can do yet, which makes them exciting.
Kick-off is at 2.30pm BST. Pah, BST. Let’s do this, one more time.
Oh and your teams are:
Mike Brown (Harlequins); Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby); George Ford (Bath Rugby), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers); Joe Marler (Harlequins), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Geoff Parling, Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Chris Robshaw (capt, Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby).
Replacements: Jamie George (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby).
Simon Zebo (Munster); Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Jared Payne (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Dave Kearney (Leinster); Johnny Sexton (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster); Jack McGrath (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Mike Ross (Leinster); Devin Toner (Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Munster) capt; Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Nathan White (Connacht), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Darren Cave (Ulster).
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