England head to Dublin seeking a pick-me-up after a pair of underwhelming performances against Wales ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but may find hosts Ireland in a less than generous mood.
Ireland have won their last 15 matches at the Aviva Stadium, helping them climb to the top of the world rankings, and Andy Farrell has named a strong side for their penultimate and arguably most important Rugby World Cup warm-up match.
Having been handed a tough World Cup draw, Farrell wants his side to be battle hardened by the time they head to France, and that could spell trouble for England.
The Owen Farrell suspension saga has taken the attention away from some alarming on-field issues, most notably the Red Rose’s attack failing to fire under Steve Borthwick.
However, England have given Ireland one or two problems recently and will hope to repeat that trick in their search for some momentum.
|What||Ireland v England|
|Where||Aviva Stadium, Dublin|
|When||17:30, Saturday, August 19th|
|How to watch||Amazon Prime|
|Odds||Ireland 1/9, Draw 33/1, England 11/2|
England are going into arguably international rugby’s toughest test without their skipper and first-choice fly-half Farrell, who has been omitted from the matchday squad amid rumours of a possible suspension being reimplemented following his sending off against Wales.
George Ford gets the number 10 shirt in Farrell’s absence, while Courtney Lawes is handed the captaincy as England go in search of what would be only their second win in their last six trips to Dublin.
Borthwick has tinkered with the side that overcame Farrell’s red card to edge out Wales last week with Ellis Genge, Dave Ribbans, Manu Tuilagi and Anthony Watson restored to the starting XV, while Ben Youngs replaces the injured Jack van Poortvliet at scrum-half.
England under Borthwick have been a tough watch thus far, recording three wins from seven matches, while they managed just one try in their two warm-up meetings with Wales.
The former Leicester head coach has implemented a rigid, territory-based gameplan with England one of three Tier One nations to average over 30 kicks per game in 2023.
But it’s yet to produce many positive results and they start as 15-point underdogs at to cover the handicap for a meeting with an Ireland team that hasn’t conceded more than 20 points in its last 13 home games.
It’s been two weeks since Ireland played their first Rugby World Cup warm-up match when a largely experimental side saw off Italy 33-17 at the Aviva Stadium.
Injuries to Jack Conan, Jimmy O'Brien and Craig Casey arguably didn’t overshadow what was otherwise an understated victory from a team enjoying a relatively trouble-free build-up to the World Cup.
The availability of Johnny Sexton and Conan’s injury aside, Andy Farrell hasn’t had much to worry about as he begins trimming down his squad with Munster's Gavin Coombes amongst five players released from the camp this week.
But with just over three weeks to go before Ireland’s World Cup opener against Romania, now may be the time to ramp up and a visit from England for Ireland’s final game in Dublin may prove the ideal fixture.
Farrell has appeared to grasp that opportunity by naming a team featuring 11 starters from Ireland’s Six Nations win over England that sealed the Grand Slam back in March.
James Ryan captains a side featuring plenty of familiar faces, albeit one that also sees No.8 Cian Prendergast make his first start for Ireland, while Ross Bryne is handed the number 10 shirt.
It’s a strong Ireland team, but it’s worth remembering how a very similar side toiled for the majority of that Grand Slam decider.
England were very much in that game before Freddie Steward’s red card just before half-time and it was a similar story the year before.
Charlie Ewels was sent-off early on for England in 2022, but Ireland didn’t pull away from England until late on.
Ultimately, Ireland should prevail, as they always seem to at the Aviva Stadium - Ireland have won 21 of 22 home Tests since the last World Cup - and given where the two sides are in their development, the best England may be able to hope for is to once again frustrate the Irish for as long as possible.