Thursday 22 August 2019 7:00 pm

Pressure on England to beat Ireland as Eddie Jones names probable World Cup XV

For England’s third World Cup warm-up match, against Ireland on Saturday, Eddie Jones has selected a team that almost looks like his first choice XV for the tournament.

Only Mako Vunipola coming in for Joe Marler at loosehead prop could make this side stronger.

But there is a concern over how reliant England have become on his brother, Billy Vunipola, at No8, where he is set to start his third successive Test.

Read more: Ireland may have peaked too soon as England World Cup warm-up looms


There is no real replacement for Billy and it is a fundamental weakness in the squad.

If England are to win the World Cup his fitness will be pivotal, in much the same way Lawrence Dallaglio played every minute of England’s triumphant campaign in 2003.

Mark Wilson could step up as he has done previously, but he is not a patch on Billy. He is more suited to fill in at No7 or No6.

Having said that, the back row looks incredibly strong with Tom Curry and Sam Underhill in the side. They are both excellent at getting over the ball and have an incredible work rate.

Meanwhile in the backs there is the return of a tried and tested combination with George Ford and Owen Farrell at fly-half and inside centre respectively.

Ford has been playing with real flair at No10 in the last two Tests and it will be interesting to see how the reintroduction of Farrell affects that dynamic.

George Ford has shown his creative flare at fly-half in the last two Test matches

He has tended to get overwhelmed and play within himself when alongside the captain, so I’m looking forward to seeing if the team can continue with the creative ambition they have shown with Ford at fly-half, particularly in the first Test against Wales.


Having Manu Tuilagi outside of Farrell adds that extra power at centre, but I’m not concerned by Ben Te’o being dropped and moving to France to join Toulon because if Tuilagi does suffer an injury it’s a position where England have plenty of depth.

Jones is still undecided on who to start in the middle where Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph are options, and while not like-for-like replacements for Tuilagi, they offer their own attributes.

While Tuilagi has strength, Slade and Joseph are both great footballers with plenty of guile.

It will be interesting to see how the exciting Ford-Farrell-Tuilagi combination, which has hardly had any game time, fares on Saturday.

Ireland are at an earlier stage of preparations and Joe Schmidt is yet to name his World Cup squad as he tries different combinations, with Ross Byrne starting at fly-half in the absence of injured duo Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery.

Read more: Wales show resillience to bounce back and beat England in physical affair at Principality Stadium

It is still a big challenge for the Irish who appeared to peak too soon with their win over the All Blacks last year. They went into the Six Nations as favourites but looked stale after picking players who had played well in the previous year rather than on form.

Any Test between Ireland and England is a big one, but this one holds more significance for England.

If Jones’s side can’t beat an Ireland team still finding its way, then it doesn’t bode well for high pressure games at the World Cup.

Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is a director within the real estate & construction team at PwC and founder of Optimist Performance. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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