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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 6 April, 2020


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Afternoon all, and welcome to our minute-by-minute coverage of this afternoon’s World Cup warm-up match between Ireland and England in the Aviva Stadium.

I would refer to the game as a “friendly,” but a) there’s no such thing as a friendly 13 days before the World Cup and b) it’s Ireland versus England.

Team-news is on the way. There’s been a late change to the English XV…

No O’Driscoll and no O’Brien for Ireland, but Declan Kidney has named a strong XV to start this afternoon.

Ireland: Murphy, Bowe, Earls, Darcy, Trimble, O’Gara, Reddan, Healy, Flannery, Ross, O’Callaghan, O’Connell (capt), Ferris, Wallace, Heaslip.

As I mentioned, a late change to Martin Johnson’s side. Nick Easter has a tight calf, so Hendre Fourie comes in at openside with James Haskell shifting to number eight.

England: Foden; Ashton, Tuilagi, Tindall (capt), Cueto; Wilkinson, Wigglesworth; Sheridan, Thompson, Cole; Deacon, Lawes; Croft, Fourie, Haskell.

Fourie’s inclusion is an interesting one. At the moment, he’s not actually part of England’s 30-man squad, but can he play himself into contention this afternoon?

Of course, for Ireland, Stephen Ferris makes his first international start in eight months. The question is – does Ireland’s strongest team include him in the back-row, or is he more valuable as an impact sub? I’m leaning towards the latter, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

We’re running a little behind time as you might have noticed. The teams are out and we’re just about to crack into Ireland’s Call.

I should mention that Ireland’s Call is being performed by Brian Kennedy and one of his buddies, complete with a rousing pre-chorus “come on!”

Fret not, it’s nearly rugby time.

Nigel Owens is our man in the middle. England’s fly-half Jonny Wilkinson (ever heard of him?) gets us underway.

Less than a minute in and Stephen Ferris is welcomed back to international rugby by English prop Andrew Sheridan who runs straight through him in the tackle. Ouch.

Great defence by the Irish forwards to slow the early English attack and drive them back towards the half-way line. Wigglesworth fires the ball back to Wilkinson in the pocket but his drop goal attempt is right and wide.

TRY! (Tuilagi, 5′) First blood England, and Keith Earls will be very disappointed with himself there. James Haskell made the initial line break and when the ball was worked out wide, Manu Tuilagi took a step back inside a poorly-positioned Earls, leaving the Irish number 13 flailing as he raced through to score. Jonny Wilkinson adds the extras to make it Ireland 0-7 England.

Ireland signal their intentions, with O’Gara kicking his first penalty into the corner much to the delight of the Aviva crowd. The lineout comes to nothing.

PENALTY! (O’Gara, 10′) A silly penalty to concede from an English point of view. Geordan Murphy looked to chase his own up-and-under but was needlessly tripped by Courtney Lawes, giving O’Gara the opportunity to kick Ireland’s first points. Ireland 3-7 England

Wonderful work by the Irish pack in the scrum, forcing England to crack and winning an important turnover just outside the Irish 22.

England’s front five respond immediately though, driving the Irish front-row up to win a penalty. This set-piece battle looks set to be a cracker.

PENALTY! (Wilkinson, 15′) This one is bread and butter for Wilkinson, who restores England’s seven-point lead. Ireland 3-10 England

Again, Ireland choose to kick to the corner when they could’ve taken the three points, and it doesn’t pay off. With two men free out wide, Eoin Reddan chooses to take a quick tap penalty as the play develops but Mark Cueto is quick off the mark to intercept.

Paul O’Connell has words with Nigel Owens, clearly feeling that Cueto was in an offside position starting off. Owens is having none of it; Paulie’s response rhymes with “rucking bullpit.”

Oh, this does not look good. David Wallace is currently in a heap on the sideline after a big, big hit by Manu Tuilagi. It’s his knee by the looks of things.

PENALTY! (O’Gara, 22′) That break in play forced play to be brought back for an earlier offence under the posts, and O’Gara makes no mistakes. Ireland 6-10 England

Denis Leamy comes on to replace David Wallace. We’ll keep you updated with news on his injury as we get it.

A couple of precautionary changes for England as well: Fourie and Cueto off, Palmer and Armitage on.

Wonderful rugby by Ronan O’Gara who collects the ball near his own line and then proceeds to jink and dummy his way through the English defence until he is held up just short of midfield.

PENALTY! (Wilkinson, 27′) Stephen Ferris is penalised for a high tackle that really didn’t appear to be that high. Jonny Wilkinson doesn’t care, and Jonny Wilkinson doesn’t miss. Ireland might feel a little bit hard done by there. Ireland 6-13 England

Wonderful, wonderful defence by Geordan Murphy. A wayward line-out is pounced on by Manu Tuilagi on his own 22 and he breezes past Gordon D’Arcy as though he’s not even there. You’d back Tuilagi every day in a footrace but Murphy is equal to him and wraps him up just short of the line.

When the ball is recycled, England still have numbers out wide on the right but they are rather cumbersome in working it out before eventually, Lawes throws the ball into touch with Ashton and Foden on the overlap.

Another change in the Irish back-row as Donnacha Ryan comes on to replace Jamie Heaslip. Here’s hoping that change is precautionary; Heaslip was able to walk off the pitch at any rate.

PENALTY! (O’Gara, 37′) England are penalised again — that’s six penalties in this first half, most of which have come at the breakdown. ROG decides to take the points on this occasion, reducing the deficit to four. Ireland 9-13 England

Now it’s Cian Healy’s turn to stay on the deck a little while longer. He was involved in an off-the-ball skirmish with an over-exuberant Tom Croft. Nigel Owens brings play back for a penalty to Ireland which gives O’Gara the chance to launch one last first-half attack.

HALF-TIME: Ireland 9-13 England

Some late pressure from Ireland ultimately comes to nothing, despite promising line-breaks from Earls and Trimble. The ball is worked wide to O’Connell and though he looks to have saved the knock-on, the touch judge flags and brings the half to an end.

Well, that was quite a fast and furious half. I’ll be back in a minute or two, but send in your thoughts and comments via the usual means and I’ll have a read with my cup of tea.

We’re back underway. I understand that David Wallace has been taken straight to hospital for tests, which won’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone. Let’s hope he’s ok to get on the plane on Tuesday.

YELLOW CARD! (Ashton, 42′) Different half, same story. England are penalised again and Nigel Owens makes good on his threat from before the break and sin-bins Chris Ashton.

MISSED PENALTY! O’Gara has a seemingly straightforward opportunity to reduce the the deficit to one, but his kick skews slightly off the outside of his boot and comes back off the right post. That has to go down as a poor and uncharacteristic miss.

TRY! (Armitage, 46′) Well, I’m not sure I knew Mike Tindall was capable of that. He plays a perfectly-weighted chip through Ireland’s defensive line and Delon Armitage beats Tommy Bowe to pounce and ground the ball. A wonderful try by England, and by Tindall in particular.

Wilkinson converts beautifully from out near the touchline and now it’s Ireland 9-20 England.

That try, of course, came while England were down to 14 with Ashton in the sin-bin. They’ll need to put some points on the board soon, because England are playing like they smell blood.

Rory Best comes on to replace Jerry Flannery for the last half-hour.

Best’s first contribution is to throw the ball crookedly into the line-out and Ireland lose the attacking momentum.

Everybody’s favourite Frenchman, Roman Poite, is one of our touch judges here today and he signals for a high-tackle against Keith Earls, reversing a penalty against Ireland.

In an incident which you can file under “unexpected,” Jonny Wilkinson misjudges his kick into the corner and the ball goes dead. Maybe he is human after all.

Ireland get a bit of a break at the breakdown — O’Connell steps in to knock the ball away from Wigglesworth, but it  is recovered by an offside Denis Leamy.

It all evens itself out seconds later though as Earls tries to buy a penalty when he is blocked off when trying a chip-and-chase. You don’t often say it in rugby, but Earls was looking for that one. He didn’t get it.

The heavens have just opened in Lansdowne Road, leaving quite a few supporters to scurry for shelter. It’s manky out there.

We’ve a new-look Irish half-back line: Murray and Sexton come on to replace Reddan and ROG.

Ireland’s intensity seems to have dropped in the last 10 minutes or so, and the conditions are certainly making matters difficult. Sexton’s tactic appears to be to kick the ball deep into English territory where possible in order to keep the visitors under a bit of pressure.

Ireland have possession inside English territory but it’s all a little slow as the work the ball through the phases. The chinks in the English defence aren’t that easy to find.

Another injury worry for Ireland — Cian Healy is stretched out on the deck, and he’ll be replaced in the front row by Tom Court for the last 10 minutes.

Ireland are grinding out yards without really threatening at the moment. They’ve a scrum about eight or nine yards from the English line, and with six minutes on the clock, they could really do with a score.

Ultimately, the attack comes to nothing. With England looking exposed out wide, Conor Murray tries an ambitious crossfield kick but he’s under huge pressure and the ball bounces once before going dead. Another opportunity goes a-begging.

48,523 is the official crowd figure in the Aviva today. Not quite a full house by my count, but tickets seemed to be nigh-on impossible to get. Not too sure what happened there.

We’re in to the final minute. It looks like Ireland are heading for a sixth defeat from nine games in 2011. Not exactly a pristine record.

FULL TIME: Ireland 9-20 England

Well, that was hardly ideal, was it? Unfortunately, the negatives far outweigh the positives this evening, not least the injury to David Wallace and the fresh concerns surrounding Jamie Heaslip and Cian Healy.

Ireland really lacked any sort of attacking threat in midfield and, for most of the game, it was far too easy for the English defence to handle.

If we’re looking for positives (which, let’s face it, we might as well), Paulie O’Connell was excellent today, showing no signs of injury and leading by example throughout.

Stephen Ferris, also returning from injury, looks to be quickly finding his feet — which is just as well because he could be needed to start in the back-row very shortly.

The line-out wasn’t perfect, but it did look to have improved again, particularly in comparison to the game against France in Bordeaux a few weeks ago.

England captain Mike Tindall on his side’s first win in Dublin since 2003:

“It’s massive, especially a win here. We were disappointed with how the Six Nations finished, we were disappointed with how the Wales game finished, so we had a lot of points to prove to ourselves.

“Credit to our defence, I thought that they were outstanding today. It seemed that whatever they threw at us, we just kept hitting them back.

Even though you don’t need much motivation to come over to Ireland and play Ireland, when you have something like that [the defeat in March] in the back of your mind, you have to use that.

“We sat down last night and talked about stuff that had happened last time, and remembered the feelings of how we felt after that game.”

Ireland captain Paul O’Connell:

“It was a very stop-start start to the game. We couldn’t get any intensity or any tempo into the game. Obviously, England had a good start and scored the early try which settled them down quite well.

“I thought that we made a lot of mistakes. That’s one thing we didn’t do six months ago [against England]; we played good mistake-free rugby. There were too many turnovers today, one or two lineout turnovers, and it cost us territory and cost us possession.

“It is tough to lose guys, but so did England, they had to bring on Tom Palmer early on. So that’s not an excuse we can make, we’ve a good squad of 30 players and we need to make the most of it. That’s not an excuse we can make, I don’t think.

There were too many errors and if you make those kind of mistakes against good teams, you’re not going to win games.

That’s all from me for now. Another disappointing afternoon for Irish rugby, and there’ll be a few tough questions asked between now and Tuesday morning when the squad board the plane for New Zealand.

We’ll keep you posted with updates on the Irish injury concerns and all the rest of the World Cup news as soon as we have it.

Thanks for stopping by.

About the author:

Niall Kelly