England’s Rugby World Cup preparations resume on Saturday as Eddie Jones’s men play at rugby HQ for one final time in their penultimate warm-up fixture, with Ireland the guests at Twickenham.
After a win and defeat against Wales in back-to-back fixtures, Jones has revealed a stronger hand after his somewhat experimental starting XV against Wales in Cardiff last weekend were slayed; with Owen Farrell and George Ford both in the same line-up for the first time in almost a year.
Jonny May and Elliott Daly also start after both scoring against Ireland in Dublin back in February as England clinched a 32-20 victory in the Guinness Six Nations – but Henry Slade, who chalked up a brace of tries at the Aviva Stadium is left out for Manu Tuilagi this time.
Ireland are yet to really get their Rugby World Cup groundwork in place, with a relatively second-string side easily dispatching Italy last weekend, before a training camp in the Algarve to acclimatise to the Japan-esque temperatures.
They too will face successive clashes with Wales after locking horns with England, but it is Jones’ men who stand before Joe Schmidt’s side first.
Jones’ starting XV is moving ever closer to his first choice side for the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off on September 20, with Farrell captaining the side from inside centre, while Tom Curry and Sam Underhill join Billy Vunipola in a powerful back-row combination.
England’s final foray will see them make a stop at Newcastle’s St James’ Park next Friday to face Italy, but this clash with Ireland will be a true Test match, before the party send off on the Tyne.
Jones has named a potent line-up and given Ireland’s lack of momentum to date, added to the 16th man of the Twickenham crowd, makes England the favourites, but the tourists – minus Johnny Sexton – boast a wealth of international experience are not to be sniffed at.
Ben’s Prediction: England to win by six
England are firm favourites to take the win, and we spoke with Coral’s Harry Aitkenhead to get their views.
“England are shuffling their deck again, with Farrell and Ford starting together for the first time in over a year, but we expect them to have too much for a different looking Ireland in this warm-up clash.
“They’ve been well backed in the run up to the game and are now as short a 1-3, with the handicap sitting at seven and punters might well be tempted to back them to win by an even bigger margin.
“The Ireland side does contain all the usual pace and power so a high scoring clash does look to be on the cards whatever the result.”