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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 19 September, 2019
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Well hello there.

It’s a hot August weekend and the 2019 Rugby World Cup preparations are about to go from a simmer to a boil.

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland are in Twickenham this afternoon for their second warm-up outing after a facile win over Italy a fortnight ago.

Both sides are close to full-strength with only a few notable exceptions. And with good reason. A win for Ireland, a repeat of the 2018 Grand Slam-sealing success, would see them leap-frog New Zealand and Wales in the World Rugby rankings and take over the number 1 slot.

Eddie Jones certainly wouldn’t mind denying Ireland from taking that accolade, and a big win for England (by 15 or more) would push Ireland down the rankings and see the chariot roll into third.

With all the talk still circling around who will make the 31-man squads, it’s a big day for Ross Byrne at out-half and Jack Carty who is named among the replacements.

Jonathan Sexton and Joey Carbery will likely travel to Japan come what may. But injury doubt won’t be far away from the front-line 10s, so the prize for next-man-up will likely be more than just a tackle-bag role.

In the pack, CJ Stander and Jean Kleyn can stake their claim for inclusion in the first-choice back row and the matchday squad respectively. While Sean Cronin appears to have a little work to do if he is to power ahead of Rob Herring or Niall Scannell before the final cuts are made.

As far as match-ups are concerned, Bundee Aki and Owen Farrell are standing opposite one another in what is a combustible midfield.

Here are the teams.

England:

15. Elliot Daly 
14. Joe Cokanasiga
13. Manu Tuilagi 
12. Owen Farrell (captain)
11. Jonny May
10. George Ford
9. Ben Youngs 

1. Joe Marler
2. Jamie George 
3. Kyle Sinckler 
4. Maro Itoje 
5. George Kruis 
6. Tom Curry 
7. Sam Underhill
8. Billy Vunipola

Replacements:

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Dan Cole
19. Courtney Lawes
20. Mark Wilson
21. Willi Heinz 
22. Piers Francis 
23. Jonathan Joseph 

Ireland:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Ross Byrne
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. Jean Kleyn
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Sean Cronin
17. Jack McGrath
18. Andrew Porter
19. Devin Toner
20. Tadhg Beirne
21. Luke McGrath
22. Jack Carty
23. Andrew Conway

Referee: Nigel Owens

Actually, the team-sheets below are yesterday’s news. England made a late tweak this morning and Jonathan Joseph misses out, so Harlequins back Joe Marchant takes over the number 23 shirt.

Kick-off is just six minutes away now in London. So either slap on some sunscreen or seek out some shade and get ready for an intriguing summer Test.

Here are the anthems then. The players will be happy enough to be on the shaded side of the stadium while standing for the sing-song.

KICK-OFF

And we’re underway. Ross Byrne kicks off and he aims the ball towards Manu Tuilagi, a decent target for Irish tacklers to start with.

2Mins

Conor Murray’s best efforts to croc-roll Maro Itoje at a ruck are fruitless and the Saracens lock turns over. Farrell kicks to space and the bounce almost goes kindly for Jonny May.

4Mins

England keen to push the tempo in the early stages here. Vunipola forces O’Mahony into touch and the quick throw is taken so that a high bomb can go to Ireland’s back-field from Daly.

Conor Murray looks uncomfortable running the pill back and his pass on the run is forward.

5Mins

The scrum penalty goes against Cian Healy. Farrell will take aim at the sticks. The difficult angle from 40 metres.

6Mins

PENALTY: England 3 Ireland 0 (Farrell ’6)

The ball fell off the tee just before Farrell commenced his first run-up, but he steadies himself and the ball beautifully and smashes the opening points onto the board.

10Mins

It’s the right wing that gets the score, but the try is a Jacob Stockdale special. 

You know the move, the same one that brought a try on this ground on Grand Slam day and against the All Blacks in November.

Henderson forced a line-out turnover and Ireland went wide. Rob Kearney flicked wide for Stockdale to do his thing.

The bounce evades him this time and Larmour was there to mop up.

Ross Byrne, showing typically icy nerves, nails the touchline conversion.

England 3 Ireland 7

Flag 12Mins

TRY:  England 8 Ireland 7 (Cokanasiga ’12)

The lead didn’t last long.

There’s a sight you don’t see every day. Ireland beaten on a first-phase set-play attack.

England scrum wide left and attack rapidly towards the right. Conor Murray drifts out of position, Rob Kearney bites in and Cokanasiga beats Larmour in the race for the corner.

Farrell pulls the conversion attempt, so England’s lead remains at just the one point.

19Mins

A long slow set of Irish attacking phases ends with Ross Byrne cross kicking to Rob Kearney. The fullback attempts his own Stockdale move, chipping over the top at the try-line. But Elliot Daly dances his way out of Kearney’s would-be tackle.

Ireland’s attacking phases are still proving to be slow gruelling affairs. England’s defensive line and breakdown pressure is doing a fine job of negating a lot of threat.

25Mins

England trying to put some tempo in their attacks again, starting with Itoje and George Ford.

After Kruis carries in to close contact the move slows and Ford tries a little too hard to milk a penalty out of a ‘lazy’ Ireland runner, but the play was too loose for the retreating player to be judged offside. There may not have been a ruck even.

Cian Healy picks up the loose ball and boots in clear.

PENALTY: England 8 Ireland 10 ( Byrne ’26)

Henderson forces the penalty and the three points are easy pickings for Byrne from 40 metres.

Flag

Conor Murray looks like he took a blow to the head as Jonny May attacked the left wing there.

England still pressing in the 22… and they get over with Elliot Daly finishing off from Curry’s beautifully timed pass.

TRY: England 13 Ireland 10 (Daly ’29)

31Mins

The physios were making sure to take precautions over Conor Murray’s neck and he has now departed the pitch for a HIA.

Luke McGrath is on alongside his provincial half-back partner.

Here’s a clip of the Ireland try from earlier in the half, before we started worrying about Conor Murray’s neck all over again.

37Mins

England are in full swing now and they have a fine attacking position with a scrum in front of the Irish posts. They don’t need the cleanest of execution, but they scoop the ball to Tuilagi and he muscles his way over the line.

TRY! England 22 Ireland 10 (Tuilagi ’37)

38Mins

More importantly than another soft concession, Conor Murray has been cleared to return. And his passing looks unincumbered so far.

Oh no. Just as we breathe some relief over Murray, Cian Healy is down wincing in pain.

Get the rosary beads out.

40Mins

If you’ve already ploughed through two hail marys, it may be doing the trick.

Healy is walking off the field on his own feet. Jack McGrath replaces him for what feels like the 200th time in their careers.

40Mins

We’re under way in the second half and that includes Luke McGrath, now on as a permanent switch for Conor Murray.

46Mins

Ireland’s line-out malfunctions badly again, a fourth lost throw today, and England react best to the overthrow from Best.

Youngs’ pass sends Itoje powering through a gap between Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong and the lock cruises under the posts.

England’s attack once again showing far greater ambition and confidence in their abilities. They fling it wide, May thinks he’s getting in, but has to lob it back hoping for support.

The referee, Nigel Owens, is ready to award a try – I think for Kruis – but we’re with the TMO.

Flag 54Mins

TRY! England 36 Ireland 10 (Kruis ’53)

TMO shows the try stands as the ball came off Vunipola’s shin after May coughed it up.

We’re staring down the barrel of a thrashing here.

As Jordan Larmour gets unmercifully ploughed by Manu Tuilagi, Jack Carty is introduced for the final 25 minutes.

Byrne hasn’t had a perfect day, but he’s been behind a beaten pack.

58Mins

TRY! England 43 Ireland 10 (Curry ’56)

Now it’s a trouncing. 

Kyle Sinckler doing his best Tadhg Furlong impression slips Underhill through a gap and the flanker supplies the final pass for his blindside to finish off.

20 minutes to go, the game is lost, but Tadhg Beirne is being sent on and he will hope to show the value of his breakdown expertise.

Ireland need x-factor of that ilk, judging by this performance so far.

Henderson is the man to make way for the Munster man.

There’s just a glimmer of a reason for Ireland to retain hope. This game means little in the grand scheme of the six weeks to come after all.

Stockdale shows his wheels to arc beyond Cokanasiga. He slips the ball back inside for Conway, but unfortunately, the Ulsterman’s boot was in touch as he made the pass.

65Mins

TRY! England 50 Ireland 10 (Cokanasiga ’65)

Aki races up and makes a smashing hit, but the battle is won at the expense of the war as the flying wing storms through a gap and barely has to tweak his angle as he powers beyond flailing defenders.

This is getting thoroughly dreadful now. We’re looking at record numbers being run up by England and there are still 13 minutes to go.

If there was no change between now and full -time, it would mark England’s biggest-ever winning margin over Ireland at Twickenham.

The half-century is the joint-largest points total they’ve posted against Ireland.

For anyone interested, or still reading to wallow in the misery, it is just the second time England have run up 50 points against Ireland in the 135 meetings since 1875.

But, hold on, Bundee Aki is here to put a bit more respectability on the board. He and Jack Carty link well to ring up a gorgeous Connacht-made try and he storms past Daly into the corner.

TRY: England 50 Ireland 15 (Aki ’73)

TRY! England 55 Ireland 15 (Cowan-Dickie ’77)

The TMO does his best to save Ireland further embarrassment, but there’s nothing clear or obvious about the aerial disruption from Itoje on O’Mahony.

Ford nails the conversion and England are now minutes way from their biggest ever win over Ireland.

Let that sink in.

Biggest ever… since they started playing international rugby in 1875.

Flag

FULL-TIME: England 57 Ireland 15

Thank goodness that’s over. But sheesh, we’ve got a long painful path to go before returning to form in the World Cup. 

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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