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Dublin: 13°C Saturday 19 September 2020

Imposing England and their 'kamikaze kids' loom large in front of Ireland

Ross Byrne will look to bring his usual level of calm to Ireland’s number 10 shirt.

OUT OF THE FIRE, into the frying pan.

Any thoughts from Ireland’s players that they could look forward to cooler conditions upon leaving Portugal for London yesterday were rapidly extinguished thanks to a forecast of 29°C when they run out against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The temperature will add to what promises to be a riveting match-up, as Ireland look to build some momentum leading into the World Cup, Joe Schmidt having restored many of his front-liners to his XV for their first outings of the new season.

The Ireland team huddle Ireland finished their training camp in Portugal yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Barring Johnny Sexton, Keith Earls and James Ryan, one could argue that this is Ireland’s first-choice side, while Eddie Jones’ England selection is certainly not lacking, with power and class across the pitch. There will certainly be a bit of bite in this one.

Of course, among the well-established players in Schmidt’s team is the relatively inexperienced Ross Byrne, set for his first Test start as he wins his third cap – Joey Carbery’s injury having handed him an opportunity that might not have come otherwise. Even though he is the newcomer to the XV, Byrne is likely to take the challenge in his stride, as he has always done.

“From the moment he started playing with the Leinster senior team, he’s been one of the leaders, one of the voices in training,” said Byrne’s provincial team-mate Josh van der Flier, who has been named at openside flanker for Ireland.

“He understands the game really well. He understands defences and what he expects of his forwards and backs. He’s very assured, he doesn’t seem to doubt himself at all and that’s very, very impressive to see working.”

Schmidt has promised that Connacht’s Jack Carty will see plenty of time off the bench too, as he also looks to convince the Ireland head coach as the days until their official squad naming on 8 September tick by.

England have made an interesting selection at 10 too, with George Ford continuing in that jersey and Owen Farrell coming back into the XV at inside centre in a reunification of the playmaking combination that Jones had appeared to ditch for good.

“We’re just trying a different strategic approach to the game,” explained the England boss. “It’s about finding out what sort of tactical approaches we can employ and use in Japan because we’re going to need a few. We want to see a passing game.

“We played a quite tight game against Wales, there were zero linebreaks. So we feel like in this game we probably need to pass a bit more, and with George at 10 and Owen at 12 we think we can do that.”

Manu Tuilagi at 13 will certainly balance out the passing with some aggressive carrying, while Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola – returning from injury to take a place on the bench – will offer more of the kind of power that saw the English overcome Ireland in Dublin back at the start of this year’s Six Nations.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt alongside Conor Murray, who is back in the XV, at Ireland training. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That level of physicality will be a fine test for Schmidt’s team again on Saturday.

“I think you can’t give them that momentum,” said van der Flier of dealing with it. “Any of the games they’ve played in the last couple of years they get gainline, someone like Billy or Mako makes a big carry, they get quick ball and they’re very, very dangerous.

“Don’t let them win the gainline and don’t let them get those quick rucks – that’s the key to it really. They’ve some incredible ball-carriers, but we’ve to try and shut them down. Once you shut them down, you take away a major threat of theirs.”

Jones has also named Sam Underhill and Tom Curry as his flankers, calling them “the kamikaze kids,” and they will be looking to welcome Byrne to Twickenham as much as Ireland’s players attempt to introduce themselves to Ford and Farrell.

“We’re not too concerned about who Ireland play, we’re more concerned with ourselves,” said Jones when asked about Byrne starting for Ireland, while Schmidt also underlined that this game is about his own team and building for the World Cup.

There is currently a degree of pessimism on the outside of Ireland’s group, largely based on the poor Six Nations that ended with a worrying defeat away to Wales, but it’s hard to get away from the feeling that a win in London would truly get the ball rolling again.

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“It would be a real boost,” said Schmidt. “The last time we played there, it was -5°C. There’s very much a turnaround with 28°C or 29°C expected, so can we keep the heat on them? I’d certainly love to see it.

George Ford comes on to replace Owen Farrell Ford and Farrell start together for England. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It would give us a little bit of momentum. It would give us a little bit of confidence. I don’t think we’re down on confidence.

“I think there’s a realisation that we worked our way through the Six Nations, we didn’t get a few things right for sure, we experimented a little bit and there’s still a little bit of experimentation you’re going to see on Saturday when we mix things up a little bit.

“Because that is still the most important thing – no one’s going to throw any accolades at this team for winning on Saturday and losing against Scotland on the 22nd of September.

“For us, we’re of that same mind – it is all about what happens in four weeks’ time, not what happens this week.”

Murray joins Bernard and Gavan with all the latest from training camp in Portugal, including a concerning update on Joey Carbery’s fitness. Plus, BBC Scotland’s Tom English explains why the Scots have a negative perception of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland team.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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