Old rivals are set for Twickenham thriller
HARRY MADLEY AND BEN CLEMINSON PREVIEW THE WEEKEND’S SIX NATIONS AND PREMIER LEAGUE ACTION
THE LAST time England played at Twickenham was back in November when World Cup winners New Zealand narrowly beat them. Returning to their home patch for the first time since that agonising 30-22 defeat, captain Chris Robshaw will demand that they go one better this time when they take on Ireland tomorrow in what could prove to be the pivotal Six Nations match of the campaign.
An in-form Ireland side have only conceded nine points in their past two games. Yet, they too know they face a huge challenge, even if England’s first choice tight-head prop Dan Cole has had to drop out through injury.
England will be more than wary of Joe Schmidt’s side who dismantled reigning champions Wales by a hefty 23 point margin two weeks ago, 26-3. The Irish pack, led by the ever formidable Paul O’Connell, will need to be stopped up front if England are to get the ball in the hands of their dangerous backline.
Owen Farrell will come up against his Lions compatriot Jonathan Sexton tomorrow – two individuals who have different styles of play.
However, one thing they will be both trying to do is get their respective midfield into the game. Ireland will look to the experienced partnership of Gordon D’Arcy and 130-cap Brian O’Driscoll, while Farrell will demand Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell carve up the Irish defence.
Lancaster will encourage his young guns to play heads up rugby – a licence to run if it’s on and it just may be that the newly acquainted pair just edge it over the Leinstermen with home advantage.
But Ireland will be looking for their fourth Six Nations win over the Red Rose in the last six meetings and on recent showings I couldn’t recommend backing the Red Rose at 4/6. Instead I’d take the visitors with a +4 handicap at a general 10/11.
This is likely to be tight. There has been an average of 31 points scored between the pair in the past five encounters and, with the best two championship defences coming up against each other, it is recommended that spread bettors sell total points at 37 with Sporting Index.
This evening we are also set for a cracker as Wales welcome a reinvigorated France to the Millennium Stadium.
Looking to bounce back after that painful defeat in Dublin two weeks ago, Warren Gatland has made a few changes, whilst entrusting the spine of his team to deliver this time round. The Welsh know that a French win in Cardiff would end their historic chances of winning the title three consecutive times.
Mike Phillips makes way for Ospreys youngster Rhys Webb after the 82 times capped scrum-half was criticised for being over-confrontational in his last outing.
George North partners Jamie Roberts in the centres and they will look to counteract the bulk, power and pace of Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud in the French midfield.
I believe they are capable of that and it’s worth remembering tonight’s hosts have won the latest two encounters against the 2010 grand slam champions. Buying Wales’ supremacy at 4 with Sporting Index is recommended. The last two wins over Les Bleus have been by a margin of 10 and seven points respectively.
Back Ireland with +4 handicap against England at 10/11 (general)
Sell total points (England v Ireland) at 37 with Sporting Index
Buy Wales’ supremacy at 4 with Sporting Index