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Dublin: 5°C Sunday 28 February 2021

Continuity the key, Doris has to settle for bench, and Earls at 23 again

Ireland head to Twickenham looking to seal the Triple Crown.

IRELAND HAVE NAMED an unchanged starting team to face England on Sunday at Twickenham [KO 3pm, Virgin Media One].

You can view Ireland’s matchday 23 here.

Continuity the key for Farrell

This is one of the least exciting Ireland team namings in recent times but the lack of headline-making issues won’t bother head coach Andy Farrell in the slightest.

We’ve heard so many times before that momentum is everything in the Six Nations and Farrell feels that Ireland have it now after two wins in their opening two games.

caelan-doris-and-james-ryan Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

As such, he has opted against making any changes to his starting team despite Caelan Doris’ return to full fitness. The 21-year-old Leinster man instead has to settle for a place on the bench. 

Doris began this championship as a starter in Farrell’s eyes, wearing the number eight shirt against Scotland on the opening weekend, but his debut lasted just three and a half minutes before he suffered a jarring concussion. If he had not been injured, Doris might well have made Ireland’s two wins even better.

However, Peter O’Mahony has responded to being dropped on that opening weekend by delivering two impactful performances.

In the end, bringing Doris back in on the bench for a huge encounter away in Twickenham is easy to understand.

Earls stays at 23

Many people seem to have fears about Keith Earls at outside centre but he showed his class two weekends ago when replacing starting 13 Robbie Henshaw against Wales and delivering an excellent performance.

a-view-of-training Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

His stunning pass in midfield to send Jordan Larmour into space was a highlight but Earls defended strongly and intelligently too, underlining that he still has so much to offer Ireland.

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The 32-year-old remains on the bench again this weekend, though, with Henshaw fit to take his place alongside Bundee Aki in midfield again and Farrell opting for an unchanged back three.

Larmour, Andrew Conway, and Jacob Stockdale should benefit from another chance to play together as they continue to build cohesion. Stockdale would appear to be the one under most pressure from Earls but the 23-year-old is a lethal finisher who also showed encouraging signs of getting infield more often against the Welsh last time out. 

Earls is standing by, ready to fill in as required and very determined to win back his place as a starter.

Triple Crown in view

Remarkably, Farrell could have some silverware after just his third game in charge of Ireland, with the Triple Crown up for grabs this weekend if they can win in Twickenham.

It would ensure an excellent start to life in charge for Farrell, while the confidence lift for his players would be huge. 

andy-farrell Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The good thing for Ireland and Farrell is that there is not much external pressure on them this weekend, even if they are applying pressure on themselves internally to deliver something special on Sunday.

The two home wins to kick off the championship have ensured Farrell’s reign is off to a solid start and every supporter and pundit understands that winning in Twickenham is a very difficult task.

On the inside, Ireland will be eyeing an opportunity against an England side that have yet to show the true quality that got them to last year’s World Cup final. That said, the boost Eddie Jones’ men will have taken from their battling win away to Scotland shouldn’t be underestimated.

All bodes well for a cracking game on Sunday.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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