Eddie Jones has stated that he considers this to be the biggest game of England’s season, clearly forgetting the Six Nations is due to start in a couple of months, but it’s understandable he may be confused as to what season we are actually in now. His sentiment is reflected in this mostly ‘all bangers, no filler selection’ with the only exception to the rule being a start of Ollie Lawrence in the centre as George Ford returns to the bench but not the starting line-up.
Maro Itoje returns to lock and Sam Underhill takes the seven jersey from Jack Willis, who Eddie Jones has told to leave the pool completely after his paddle in shallow end vs Georgia.
Both of Ireland’s current first choice out-halves suffered injury vs Wales; Johnny Sexton is out completely and Billy Burns can only make the bench after undergoing brain injury protocols in the past few days. This means Leinster’s Ross Byrne and his eights caps (one start) is in at ten, which must give Ireland fans some jitters given his only international start saw his side get a 57-15 mauling from… England. Andy Farrell says, “I’ve no concerns whatsoever,” but he would say that wouldn’t he? The absence of Sexton also forces Farrell turn to James Ryan to make his captaincy debut and there’s also the less heralded return of exciting young hooker Ronan Kelleher for his fifth cap.
Elsewhere, Keith Earls is in for Andrew Conway, the boom-boom combo of Aki and Chris Farrell is in the centres and Hugo Keenan – the international find of Farrell’s reign so far – for me continues at fullback.
England: Elliot Daly; Jonathan Joseph, Ollie Lawrence, Henry Slade, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (capt), Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Max Malins.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson Park; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, James Ryan (capt), CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Will Connors, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jacob Stockdale.