In a game of margins there's no margin of error for Ireland
This tidal wave system is far from the creativity of the French and Welsh, or for that matter Italy, but with Twelvetrees England have an excellent passer of the ball and spotter of space, not unlike All Black Conrad Smith.
Further inside is scrumhalf Ben Youngs, who confuses me. He often looks for something to happen coming off the base rather than making it happen, or affording others space and time to do so.
He continually steps laterally from the breakdown across the pillar defence, I assume to suck them out of shape but a well-disciplined defence will gobble that up – if the recycle is over five seconds! If not, trouble. It robs time from his outside backs.
Yes, he was sensational on the break for Geoff Parling’s try, spotting Jim Hamilton out of position but at what cost against a well-disciplined defence?
Danny Care would be a bigger threat to Ireland. His pass is sharper and less indulgent, more Peter Stringer and his out half looks more assured with the extra time. Suffice to say I hope Youngs starts! Either way what challenge will Tuilagi offer over Alex Cuthbert and George North? Should Ireland’s defence change?
As in Cardiff, O’Driscoll must close the door on 13 with confidence in Jonny Sexton inside. But England don’t bamboozle defences, they starve them of time and swamp them in numbers. Hence our wingers have a less confusing challenge but the pace and physicality is higher; a case for Andrew Trimble?
The Irish bench is crucial on Sunday as Mike Ross doesn’t even play 80 minutes for Leinster. Ireland can’t fall into the same trap as last year when the team allowed the loss of Ross to permeate all aspects of their performance.
England work very hard to get both sides of the breakdown and in possession, they operate distinct pods. Robshaw offers especially on third phase, taking a flat pivot for bigger ball-carriers. It is crucial Sexton is not asked to make this tackle, which is what England will want; sucking in backs to create space for Tuilagi is England’s game .
Ireland’s forwards needs to fill the field, pushing backs outfield allied to violent rucking to slow the “stopwatch” recycle and keep England forever in the margins!
PS: He’s back, Trevor Brennan! 7.30pm kick-off tomorrow night in Donnybrook, Validus Re Stuart Mangan Memorial Cup Ireland Legends vs England Legends www.irelandenglandlegends.com/