Red Rose can build on fine form by passing Dublin test

ENGLAND meet Ireland at the Aviva Stadium for the second round of Six Nations matches after a memorable opening weekend that featured an impressive defeat of Scotland by the Red Rose and another significant step forward for Italian rugby as they edged out France.

Stuart Lancaster’s decision to trust a number of younger players was vindicated as England ran out 38-18 winners to emerge as 6/5 favourites for the tournament with Star Sports. He has fashioned a side that has a blend of youth and experience which is thriving under his regime.

A perfect example is Gloucester’s Billy Twelvetrees, who grabbed his opportunity on debut with a try at Twickenham, and the dynamic centre is set to earn his second cap. There was speculation around whether he would drop to the bench as Manu Tuilagi has returned to training but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Leicester centre used as an impact replacement.

England did what they had to against the Scots and now have their first genuine test against Ireland, who began with an entertaining 30-22 triumph at the Millennium Stadium.

Declan Kidney’s side blew Wales away for the opening 40 minutes in Cardiff, yet were unable to match the intensity through the second period as the hosts fought back to give Ireland a real scare.

Sunday’s clash will be the sixth time in five years that Ireland and England have met and it’s three victories apiece. England have claimed the past two internationals against the Emerald Isle, including a convincing 30-9 victory in last year’s tournament. It was the second successive game that England have prevented Ireland scoring a try and they managed only nine points in each defeat.

Ireland do have some exciting attacking talent coming through that will test England’s defence and mercurial winger Simon Zebo is certainly one to watch. Brian O’Driscoll’s return last weekend gives the side some added experience in midfield, yet I’m not convinced the Irish are capable of putting together 80 minutes of rugby and that’s where England hold the advantage.

Whoever wins this crunch game will have the momentum going forward and will be in a strong position to land the tournament and the Grand Slam after France’s shock defeat to the Italians.

England’s squad has the perfect balance and excellent options from the bench to rely on to help close out a tight game. Coral have both sides at 10/11 and at those prices I’m keen to take on the hosts and back England to win a third successive game over Ireland.

The average winning margin of the Red Rose’s past two internationals with Ireland currently stands at 16 points, so a buy of England’s supremacy at 4 with Sporting Index is also recommended.

■ Pointers…
England to beat Ireland at 10/11 with Coral
Buy England’s supremacy at 4 with Sporting Index