England and Ireland collide in a World Cup warm-up match at Twickenham on Saturday, with both sides fielding strong line-ups.
Here, PA examines five talking points ahead of the clash.
One week after Wales deposed New Zealand at the top of the world rankings, it becomes Ireland’s turn to benefit from the global merry-go-round. A win at Twickenham would propel them to the summit, but third is the best England can hope for – a week after they could have been usurping the All Blacks. The competition at the top suggests we could be in for the closest World Cup ever.
The warm-up Tests can be patchy as teams balance the need to give players game time and fine-tune tactics without giving too much away, while hoping to avoid defeat. But Saturday’s showdown has been given extra bite by the coaches’ decision to name virtually their strongest available teams and the winners would surely take confidence from a positive result.
Joey Carbery’s involvement at the World Cup is threatened by an ankle injury, offering Ross Byrne the chance to cement his place as Johnny Sexton’s understudy at fly-half. The 24-year-old from Leinster has won two caps off the bench and makes his full Test debut knowing a strong performance against Ireland could book his ticket to Japan.
Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have been labelled England’s ‘Kamikaze kids’ by head coach Eddie Jones, who adds: “They hit everything that moves.” For so long the nation has struggled to produce a genuine openside and now that two have come along at once, Jones has shoehorned them into the same back row in an exciting selection experiment that could be retained for the World Cup.
For the first time in 14 months, George Ford and Owen Farrell will operate in tandem as dual playmakers. It is a selection that served England well in the earlier stages of Jones’ era, but it was almost a necessity due to the lack of a strong ball-carrying centre and, when the likes of Manu Tuilagi and Ben Te’o did become available, the Australian coach changed emphasis. Ford and Farrell are still an option for the World Cup, especially if they create opportunities against Ireland.
- Press Association