Thursday 20 February 2020 6:37 pm

Home advantage will see England overcome Ireland in the Farrell family showdown at Twickenham

The Six Nations returns this weekend after a break and Sunday brings a mouth-watering contest at Twickenham, where England host Ireland. 

As ever, it’s set to be a huge game between two of the world’s top five teams and there’s plenty at stake, too.

Ireland are eyeing a Triple Crown and are still on course for a Grand Slam, while England desperately need a win following their opening round defeat by France and dogged mud bath against Scotland.

Read more: Ireland’s attack is evolving under English duo Andy Farrell and Mike Catt ahead of Twickenham showdown

There is also the dynamic of Ireland head coach Andy Farrell coming up against his son, England fly-half Owen. 

It’s an interesting conundrum, which adds extra intrigue to the occasion. Andy knows his son’s weaknesses better than anyone and will have spent the last two weeks working on how to exploit them. 

No bold calls

I don’t feel like we have learned a great deal about Ireland under Farrell yet following home wins over Scotland and Wales. 

He has opted against making any bold calls, playing for the present rather than the future by keeping Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton as the No9-No10 axis.

Ireland remain solid all over the pitch and I think there are two areas they will try to exploit.

Johnny Sexton
Sexton is still the man entrusted with pulling the strings for Ireland (via Getty Images)

Sexton is one of the best in the world at testing the opposition back three with accurate, high kicks, and – if he plays – George Furbank could be vulnerable.

I also think England’s back row, without a specialist No8, will be targeted by Ireland’s experienced forwards. 

One-dimensional

Having said that, I don’t see Ireland producing the sort of special performance needed to win at Twickenham, like they did in 2018. They are not threatening enough for me.

Sexton is tactically astute, but at 34 he isn’t as good at liberating his backs and their centre pairing of Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki is a bit one-dimensional.

Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell has succeeded Joe Schmidt as Ireland head coach (via Getty Images)

England are not as formidable as they once were – the intensity of their World Cup campaign has been missing so far in this tournament – but playing at Twickenham, where they are unbeaten in eight games, is a big advantage.

Creativity needed

It was hard to draw firm conclusions from their 13-6 win over Scotland. They did what they had to, winning ugly in appalling conditions, but this game is undoubtedly a step up in quality. 

I think it’s a real opportunity for Simon Amor to show his credentials as an attack coach as England will need to be creative to breach Ireland’s defence. 

The forwards will be keen to impose themselves. Apart from Maro Itoje and Ellis Genge, who have stood out, the pack has lacked its usual solidity, especially at set pieces.

Against Ireland they will have to hit the ground running.

Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development & behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn

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