Six Nations: England v Ireland head-to-head

Who holds the upper hand in the key battles?

On the back of a disastrous World Cup, can new coach Eddie Jones lead England to a first Six Nations title since 2011? John O'Sullivan reports. Video: David Dunne

 

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Kearney v Brown

15 Kearney 15 Brown
15 Rob Kearney
Age: 29
Height: 1.85 (6’1”)
Weight: 95kg (15st)
Caps: 68
Points: 67
15 Mike Brown
Age: 30
Height: 1.83m (6’)
Weight: 92kg (14st 6lbs)
Caps: 45
Points: 40

Kearney’s footwork in contact was generally excellent against France. Brown’s form is nowhere near the quality that won him 2014 Six Nations player-of-the-year and England look sharper in attack when Andy Goode comes on.

Advantage: None


Trimble v Nowell

trimble 11
14 Andrew Trimble
Age: 31
Height: 1.85 (6’1”)
Weight: 99kg (15st 8lb)
Caps: 60
Points: 80
11 Jack Nowell
Age: 22
Height: 1.80m (5’11”)
Weight: 97kg (15st 3lbs)
Caps: 12
Points: 40

Trimble has been sharp in defence and will have to be so again against one of the in-form backs in English rugby. Nowell is a strong, quick and beautifully balanced runner and lethal in open play.

Advantage: England


Henshaw v Joseph

henshaw 13 Joseph
13 Robbie Henshaw
Age: 22
Height: 1.91m (6’3”)
Weight: 103kg (16st 3lb)
Caps: 17
Points: 5
13 Jonathan Joseph
Age: 24
Height: 1.83m (6’)
Weight: 91kg (14st 4lbs)
Caps: 18
Points: 40

A new role for Henshaw at test level. He has the talent and capacity to play 13 but defensively it’s a steep learning curve. Joseph’s possesses superb footwork and pace. He gets the nod because he plays this position regularly.

Advantage: England


McCloskey v Farrell

mccloskey 12 Farrell
12 Stuart McCloskey
Age: 23
Height: 1.91m (6’3”)
Weight: 109kg (17st 1lb)
Caps: 0
Points: 0
12 Owen Farrell
Age: 24
Height: 1.88m (6’2”)
Weight: 92kg (14st 6lbs)
Caps: 37
Points: 365

Thoroughly deserved call-up for McCloskey. It’s important that he uses his feet and hands intelligently to complement his physical qualities. Farrell’s distribution is impressive and he’s a doughty competitor but McCloskey, despite being on debut, can give Ireland an edge.

Advantage: Ireland


Earls v Watson

earls 14 watson
11 Keith Earls
Age: 28
Height: 1.78m (5’10”)
Weight: 90kg (14st 2lbs)
Caps: 47
Points: 80
14 Anthony Watson
Age: 21
Height:
1.85 (6’1”)
Weight: 93kg (14st 9lbs)
Caps: 17
Points: 40

Earls looked very sharp in the Welsh match and that’s important against a player who has caused Ireland some alarming moments in the past. This battle really does depend on who is doing the attacking and defending.

Advantage: None


Sexton v Ford

sexton 10 ford
10 Jonathan Sexton
Age: 30
Height: 1.88 (6’2”)
Weight: 92kg (14st 6lb)
Caps: 58
Points: 545
10 George Ford
Age: 22
Height: 1.78m (5’10”)
Weight: 84kg (13st 4lbs)
Caps: 19
Points: 142

If Ireland are to win at Twickenham, then Sexton is likely to play a pivotal role both with the boot and his distribution. Ford’s suffering a little bit of second season syndrome but there’s no doubting his quality of temperament.

Advantage: Ireland


Murray v Youngs

murray 9 youngs
9 Conor Murray
Age: 26
Height: 1.88 (6’2”)
Weight: 94kg (14st 10lb)
Caps: 48
Points: 25
9 Ben Youngs
Age: 26
Height: 1.78m (5’10”)
Weight: 88kg (13st 12lbs)
Caps: 54
Points: 45

Youngs rarely has a middling match, either brilliant or anonymous. Loves the quick tap penalty, and has benefited from the pressure exerted by Danny Care. Murray needs to be at his sharp, decisive best for this tussle.

Advantage: Ireland


McGrath v Cole

mcgrath 3
1 Jack McGrath
Age: 26
Height: 1.85m (6’1”)
Weight: 118kg (18st 8lb)
Caps: 27
Points: 5
3 Dan Cole
Age: 28
Height: 1.90m (6’3”)
Weight: 123kg (19st 5lbs)
Caps: 58
Points: 5

A key tussle especially at scrum time. Both players give away odd penalty but Cole tends to be the bigger sinner. McGrath has been Ireland’s outstanding forward and will need to reach those levels again.

Advantage: Ireland


Best v Hartley

best 2
2 Rory Best (capt)
Age: 33
Height: 1.80m (5’11”)
Weight: 105kg (16st 8lbs)
Caps: 91
Points: 40
2 Dylan Hartley (capt)
Age: 29
Height: 1.85m (6’1”)
Weight: 109kg (17st 2lbs)
Caps: 68
Points: 5

Best had a relatively quiet game by his standards against France, while Saracens hooker Jamie George is starting to put serious pressure on Hartley. The lineout is a crucial platform and both will have to be pitch-perfect.

Advantage: Ireland


Ross v Marler

Ross 1
3 Mike Ross
Age: 36
Height: 1.88m (6’2”)
Weight: 127kg (19st 13lbs)
Caps: 56
Points: 0
1 Joe Marler
Age: 25
Height: 1.85m (6’1”)
Weight: 110kg (17st 4lbs)
Caps: 39
Points: 0

Another arm-wrestle between former Harlequins teammates and it normally requires all of Ross’s energy to try to keep his feisty rival in check in the scrum. Marler will do more around the pitch, knowing that he’ll be gone in 60-minutes.

Advantage: England


Toner v Itoje

toner 4
4 Devin Toner
Age: 29
Height: 2.08m (6’10”)
Weight: 124kg (19st 7lbs)
Caps: 33
Points: 0
4 Maro Itoje
Age: 21
Height: 1.95m (6’5”)
Weight: 116kg (18st 3lbs)
Caps: 1
Points: 0

Everything about Itoje from his time with underage England teams suggests he’ll captain the national side. To go with his leadership he has athleticism, mobility and good instincts. Toner needs to bring his experience to bear in all facets.

Advantage: Ireland


Ryan v Kruis

ryan 5
5 Donnacha Ryan
Age: 32
Height: 2.01m (6’7”)
Weight: 114kg (17st 13lbs)
Caps: 36
Points: 0
5 George Kruis
Age: 26
Height: 1.98m (6’6”)
Weight: 113kg (17st 11lbs)
Caps: 12
Points: 5

Huge opportunity for Ryan to nail down the jersey for the remainder of the championship but to do so he’s got to raise his game. Kruis has successfully translated his club form to England.

Advantage: England


Stander v Robshaw

stander 6
6 CJ Stander
Age: 25
Height: 1.88 (6' 2")
Weight: 114kg (17st 13lbs)
Caps: 2
Points: 0
6 Chris Robshaw
Age: 29
Height: 1.90m (6’3”)
Weight: 109kg (17st 2lbs)
Caps: 45
Points: 10

Robshaw has begun to show decent form at club level and unshackled from responsibility, it should benefit his game. Stander couldn’t have made a much better start to his Ireland career.

Advantage: Ireland


van der Flier v Haskell

josh 7
7 Josh van der Flier
Age: 22
Height: 1.85m (6’1”)
Weight: 98kg (15st 6lb)
Caps: 0
Points: 0
7 James Haskell
Age: 30
Height: 1.93m (6’4”)
Weight: 117kg (18st 5lbs)
Caps: 64
Points: 20

Haskell is a leader in the defensive line. Van der Flier earned this chance and as a genuine openside could cause the home side plenty of problems at ruck time and in wider channels.

Advantage: England


Heaslip v Vunipola

heaslip 8
8 Jamie Heaslip
Age: 32
Height: 1.93 (6’3”)
Weight: 110kg (17st 4lb)
Caps: 82
Points: 50
8 Billy Vunipola
Age: 23
Height: 1.88m (6’2”)
Weight: 126kg (19st 11lbs)
Caps: 23
Points: 20

Vunipola was man of the match in England’s first game against Scotland; his carrying was a big factor. He needs to be chopped at source. Heaslip, solid against France, will want to get back to the excellence he demonstrated against Wales.

Advantage: England


Bench

The return of Cian Healy will be a significant boost in power terms while Irish supporters will be fascinated to see if one potential debutant, the hugely promising Ultan Dillane, can make an immediate impact at test level. Rhys Ruddock is another perfectly suited to the demands of the game when introduced. But there are a number of players on the England bench – Jamie George, Alex Goode for example – that are arguably playing better than those starting in the team and that has to be a concern for the Ireland later on in the match.
Advantage: England

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