6 nations 2015 england ireland

6 Nations 2015 Preview: Ireland v England

This weekend’s Ireland-England rugby collision in Dublin should be a thriller.

And, with both sides unbeaten in the Six Nations championship to date, something has to give.

So much so that it has caught the imagination of the rugby world.

England fans and Irish exiles alike are pouring across the water to take in what will be a feast of entertainment. The bars will be crammed; every corporate hospitality package will have been snapped up.

Pundits expect the match to turn on who wins the forward showdown.

Graham Rowntree, the England forwards coach, a gnarled and grizzled veteran of many such battles, knows full well what is in prospect.

“Ireland have always had an aura about them, always been able to turn up the intensity, always had that ­passion,” said Rowntree. “The way they turned the heat up on us in 2011 when we went there for a potential Grand Slam. They have always got that to go to as a nation. They are full of warriors.”

And none more so than Paul O’Connell who is again partnered in the second row by Devin Toner, a giant of a man at 6ft 11in, the tallest player in Test rugby, who will tower a good six inches above his English counterparts.

Both have a deserved reputation for messing up opposition line-outs; both are enormously powerful when working a rolling maul.

The new England lock partnership of Dave Attwood and George Kruis have played well against Wales and Italy, but this will be a step change. The England management will find out what they are made of and whether they can stand up to even tougher challenges to come in the autumn World Cup.

Rowntree admitted: “Paul O’Connell has always been a pain to play against. He is the constant driving force. Toner’s height does cause problems, and he is a good line-out defender. Ireland have an aggressive defence there.”

Kruis describes O’Connell as Ireland’s “talisman” but is confident he and Attwood can outfox the old fox.

If O’Connell and Toner get the upper hand, allied to traditional Irish marauding in the loose, then England will be in big trouble.

If England can secure enough ball then their pacy three-quarters have the ability to create the breaks that will produce the all important scores.

Exeter’s Jack Nowell is to start on the wing, replacing Jonny May. On fire centre Jonathan Joseph is the man to produce that extra special creativity which leads to victory.

Alex Goode comes in to replace Mike Brown at Full Back following a setback in his recovery from concussion suffered against Italy.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster is confident. “Preparation has gone well and we’ve had a good build up.”

At Twickenham in 2014 England came from behind to win 13-10. A wonderful try from Rob Kearney had given the Irish a seven-point lead but an even better effort from England’s Danny Care and the nerveless kicking of Owen Farrell got England home.

For sure Sunday will be no rest day for either side.

England side to face Ireland

15. Alex Goode (Saracens, 16 caps)
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 6 caps)
13. Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 8 caps)
12. Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints, 9 caps)
11. Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 5 caps)
10. George Ford (Bath Rugby, 8 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 44 caps)

1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 28 caps)
2. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 63 caps)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 47 caps)
4. David Attwood (Bath Rugby, 18 caps)
5. George Kruis (Saracens, 6 caps)
6. James Haskell (Wasps, 55 caps)
7. Chris Robshaw (captain, Harlequins, 34 caps)
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 14 caps)

Replacements

16. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 19 caps)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 17 caps)
18. Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby, 7 caps)
19. Nick Easter (Harlequins, 49 caps)
20. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers, 39 caps)
21. Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 18 caps)
22. Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks, 10 caps)
23. Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby, 18 caps)