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England needs to prevent a strong and unified Ireland from causing harm, or else they will face consequences.
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England needs to prevent a strong and unified Ireland from causing harm, or else they will face consequences.


It has been 54 years since Tony O’Reilly, who took a break from his executive role, made an appearance at Twickenham in a Rolls-Royce to play for Ireland. Never before in rugby history has an Irish team arrived at southwest London with such ease, and they are predicted to leave England far behind as they currently lag behind in the race.

The statistics leading up to the match suggest that Ireland may have a similar dominant performance as Max Verstappen. Ireland has won their last four games in this fixture and have won their three previous championship games by margins of 21, 36, and 24 points. In their last 25 games, they have only lost twice, both times to New Zealand. They have also been on a winning streak, except for their close one-point loss to the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-final.

Achieving two grand slams in a row has not been done since France’s double win in 1998, and accomplishing it would be solid evidence of their skill. The only potential obstacle is if England or Scotland (playing in Dublin next week) can disrupt the dominant performance of Ireland’s team. However, this is easier said than done, and England is at a point where they must deliver a strong performance to regain trust from the public.

The England team acknowledges that they cannot afford to make the same mistakes in handling and turnovers as they did against Scotland at Murrayfield. Beating Ireland would be an ideal comeback, but deep down, England also longs for the support and satisfaction of playing at their best.

Encouraging the audience to cheer loudly in the beginning and putting Ireland in a position of needing to catch up would greatly benefit. Another necessary condition is to have all 15 players remain on the field for the entirety of the game. Surprisingly, in the last three matches between these teams, England has had a player ejected – namely, Billy Vunipola, Freddie Steward, and Charlie Ewels – and subsequently lost by margins of 13, 17, and 19 points. Even if they are not performing at their peak, the Irish are known for consistently scoring and can be counted on to score at least a couple of tries.

But in most of these competitions, England has demonstrated the needed persistence, which will be crucial once again. Even after Ewels was sent off within 82 seconds in 2022, they managed to keep the score tied in the last stretch and put pressure on Ireland with five penalties and a free-kick at the scrum. In Dublin last year, they were only trailing 10-9 after 60 minutes, but eventually succumbed to Ireland’s numerical advantage.

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso scores for England, against Scotland at Murrayfield

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Taking into account the difficulties with lineouts that the Irish faced against Wales, there is a potential argument for England causing more trouble than expected. By kicking the ball out of play, relying on their strengthened lineout with players like Ollie Chessum, George Martin, and Maro Itoje, and putting pressure on Ireland’s scrum with Andrew Porter, England could challenge Ireland to find solutions for the first time in the tournament. According to Steve Borthwick, with the limited number of losses for Ireland, it is important to closely examine their close games. In short, the key is to stop Ireland at the source or face the consequences.

Despite this, they still need to figure out how to decipher the united code that Andy Farrell’s Ireland team is founded on. As mentioned by Dan Cole on his For The Love of Rugby podcast, even refined tighthead props are now focusing on building their online presence. The key to Ireland’s success lies in the strength of their connections. This includes using short passes to change the direction of attack, having numbers ready to support breakdowns, quickly passing out to the next group of runners, effective dummy runners, and James Lowe’s impressive left foot kicks. If Farrell were to choose a squad for the British & Irish Lions next week, there would likely be more players from Ireland than England, Scotland, and Wales combined.

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If Ireland secures the title early this season, it will bring up another ongoing discussion. According to Borthwick, Ireland is currently the top team in the world, but what he truly admires is their well-connected system that supports their national team. “When you look at it, it appears to be seamlessly coordinated,” he stated this week, clearly believing that, in comparison, the English system is lacking. “They have 15 players from the same (provincial) team in their 23-man squad. I believe every country would view this with envy.”

Ireland’s players have been consistently improving, while England’s players have not progressed as much. Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne, Dan Sheehan, and Joe McCarthy, a powerful new addition to the team, have joined forces with Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, and Jamison Gibson-Park. This has resulted in a widespread and impactful presence on the field, like a shamrock-wearing octopus.

This week, Ronan O’Gara shared his perspective from La Rochelle that the overall strength of the Premiership has declined in the past decade. Although there are exceptions, such as Northampton’s victory against Munster in January, O’Gara believes the lack of forward prowess in English teams does not fully account for why talented back players struggle to perform when playing for the England national team.

This game holds equal importance for both George Ford and Ollie Lawrence, as well as 21-year-old Manny Feyi-Waboso who will be making his first start at Twickenham. If England manages to stay in the game after an hour, it could pave the way for Harlequins’ well-known attacking trio of Danny Care – who is set to earn his 100th cap as a substitute – Alex Dombrandt, and the recently recovered Marcus Smith.

Can England maintain control of the ball by executing precise angled movements and maintaining a fast pace? Are they also using strategy to outsmart their opponents and demonstrating a strong offensive in crucial areas? It may be too optimistic to predict such a scenario at this stage, but what do they have to lose? Borthwick noted that England has risen to the challenge when facing favored opponents in the past, and he senses that same determination from the team now. While Ireland is still expected to come out with a win, it is likely that England will put up a stronger fight in this matchup.

Source: theguardian.com