Owen Farrell absence dominates build-up – Ireland v England talking points

By Sports Desk August 18, 2023

Ireland and England step up preparations for the World Cup when they clash in a warm-up fixture in Dublin.

The rivals are at very different stages of their development.

Here the PA news agency examines five talking points ahead of their 141st meeting on Saturday.

Absent Farrell takes centre stage

Both teams are at close to full strength yet for all the stars on parade at the Aviva Stadium, the spotlight shines on a notable absentee. Owen Farrell was due to lead England in their penultimate fixture before facing Argentina in a pivotal Pool D fixture but instead Steve Borthwick’s captain and talisman is preparing for his second appearance before rugby’s judiciary in a week. The outcry at the decision to rescind his red card against Wales has seen World Rugby lodge an appeal, extending the controversy into a second week and disrupting England’s preparations both for Ireland and the World Cup.

England under siege

Borthwick knew he was leaping into the deep end when he took over a side that had lost its way under Eddie Jones, but even the resilient and thick skinned Cumbrian must be reeling from the controversy that has erupted around Farrell, who he claims is the victim of “personal attacks” on his character. On the field England have yet to provide any meaningful evidence of progress under Borthwick, who is fighting multiple fires including a disciplinary implosion against Wales with the World Cup starting in three weeks’ time.

Ford’s chance to shine

Into the fly-half breach steps George Ford, who makes his first Test start since 2021. The Sale ringmaster was outstanding as a replacement against Wales last Saturday and with Farrell likely to miss the start of the World Cup if the appeal succeeds, he has the opportunity to step out of his captain’s shadow and direct an attack that has yet to take shape under Borthwick. Assisting England’s smartest player is a well balanced centre partnership of Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant in what could be the first choice backline.

On the comeback trail

Ollie Chessum will make his long-awaited return from the serious ankle injury sustained during the Six Nations when he steps off the bench in Dublin. The 22-year-old Leicester second row was England’s breakout star of the Championship, bringing athleticism and energy to the engine room. With the World Cup fast approaching his return is well timed for England, although Tom Curry’s ongoing absence with his own ankle issue remains a concern.

Andy Farrell’s top dogs

Ireland will concede their place at the top of the world rankings to New Zealand if they lose to England and could fall as low as fourth should other results go against them, but the prospect of that happening is remote. Andy Farrell’s Six Nations champions have won the last three Tests against their rivals and are poised to make an impact at the World Cup, even if they are positioned on the savage side of the draw. Connacht back row Cian Prendergast is the latest talent to roll off the green production line with Farrell describing the full debutant as a “warrior”, while Keith Earls is poised to win his 100th cap off the bench.

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    England ran riot against Ireland with head coach John Mitchell revealing their pivot to an all-action attack is designed to fill Twickenham.

    A crowd of 48,778 watched the Red Roses plunder 14 tries in an 88-10 victory that keeps them on course to win a sixth successive Guinness Women’s Six Nations title when they face France in a likely Grand Slam decider next weekend.

    Unstoppable wing Abby Dow and player of the match Ellie Kildunne completed hat-tricks, but there were fireworks across the field as England delivered on their promise to put on a show.

    Their ultimate aim is to run out at next year’s home World Cup in front of a sold-out Twickenham and Mitchell insisted that can only be achieved by captivating audiences with a style of play no longer based on forward dominance.

    “The girls presented a performance that went up a gear. We asked that of them during the week and they certainly delivered it,” the Kiwi said.

    “We’ve got a drive to fill the stadium on a consistent basis because we want to play here consistently.

    “If we can continue to produce performances like that it won’t be too long before we do fill all the seats. From that point of view, it’s only that style of rugby that will bring people to watch us.

    “We know we have other strengths as well, but this is a good sign and we’re only in the infancy of it.

    “It’s a testament to the girls because they go out and own it and see the rewards from it.”

    England have amassed 228 points after four rounds of the Six Nations, conceding only 20, and the lopsided scoreline at Twickenham is an ugly look for the competition.

    “I’m sure some people will chat about the competitiveness, but at the end of the day we drive ourselves in the way we prepare and that’s all we can focus on,” Mitchell said.

    “We’re not really in a position to judge the competition or its competitiveness. Our standards in the way we prepare have gone up a little bit in terms of level.”

    Ireland head coach Scott Bemand admitted his side were left “shell-shocked” by the game’s dominant force.

    “Tough day at the office. We came up against the market leaders but we’ll dust ourselves down and come back next week,” he said.

    “This was a big game for a youthful group. Could we have predicted a margin like that? Probably not.”

  • England overwhelm Ireland to keep Six Nations title hopes firmly on track England overwhelm Ireland to keep Six Nations title hopes firmly on track

    England thrilled a bumper crowd at Twickenham by overwhelming Ireland 88-10 to set up a likely Grand Slam decider against France next weekend.

    The Red Roses amassed 14 tries in front of 48,778 fans with the unstoppable Abby Dow and Ellie Kildunne completing hat-tricks, while Megan Jones and Jess Breach each crossed twice.

    For all Dow’s finishing instincts, it was full-back Kildunne who shone brightest through a captivating display in attack, and her athleticism was a constant threat to Ireland.

    It was an ugly final scoreline for the tournament but Ireland at least managed to touch down by forcing a penalty try.

    Scrum-half Natasha Hunt promised England would “put on a show” and by securing the try-scoring bonus point inside the opening quarter, they duly delivered despite losing lock Rosie Galligan to a thumb injury during the warm-up.

    Dow left a trail of green shirts on the ground to begin the onslaught and Hunt was the next to score after making a dynamic solo break.

    The tone had been set and what followed was a procession with Kildunne at the vanguard, the Harlequin’s electric running sweeping her into open space time and again.

    A cheeky dummy kick launched one gliding charge out of defence and Ireland were having to scramble furiously to contain a player who has the ambition of becoming the best in the world.

    When she crossed on the half-hour mark it was a simple finish to a move started by England’s line-out maul as the home pack asserted itself up front.

    Hooker Lark Atkin-Davies was helped off with an injury but the rout continued when sharp handling and a vast gap in the Ireland midfield invited Dow over for her second.

    The Irish ran out of defenders as Breach switched on the afterburners to race over, and just eight minutes into the second half England surpassed 50 points for the first time in this Six Nations when Sadia Kabeya powered over.

    Ireland were outclassed but showed plenty of fight against the game’s dominant force and their determination paid off when they were awarded a penalty try for seeing a driving maul thwarted illegally.

    Lucy Packer was sent to the sin-bin as a result, but England still scored next when Jones weaved a path through the opposition midfield.

    Emily Scarratt received a loud cheer when she replaced Tatyana Heard and Dow ran in her third, ushering in a traumatic final quarter for Ireland who were swamped by better conditioned opponents.

  • Cole Palmer has nothing to prove to City, says Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino Cole Palmer has nothing to prove to City, says Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino

    Mauricio Pochettino believes Cole Palmer will go into Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City on Saturday with nothing to prove to his former employers, insisting he is the right manager to help the 21-year-old continue his stunning ascendancy.

    Palmer, who left Chelsea’s Wembley opponents in a £42.5million deal in the summer, is joint top scorer in the Premier League after his four goals in Monday’s 6-0 demolition of Everton moved him level with City’s Erling Haaland on 20 for the season.

    He has netted an incredible seven times in the team’s last two home games, including a hat-trick in the breathless 4-3 win over Manchester United when two of his goals came in the 10th and 11th minutes of stoppage time.

    He previously scored from the penalty spot in the fifth minute of added time to snatch a point in a 4-4 draw when City visited west London in November.

    Palmer has previously stated his decision to leave the champions – for whom he scored twice in August in the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup – was based on the belief he would get more first-team game time at Chelsea.

    That decision has been thoroughly vindicated, with his performances for Mauricio Pochettino’s frustratingly inconsistent side placing him in the reckoning for the PFA Player of the Year award.

    His odds on winning the award have been slashed by as much as half with some bookmakers since his Everton haul.

    But his manager said there was no possibility the England international would face City with an axe to grind.

    “It’s his first consistent season playing, we need to be careful because he’s still young, he’s growing,” said Pochettino.

    “He’s already played twice (against City) in the Premier League. He’s very grateful for Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola. He always talks very highly of them.

    “He’s not the type of player that has something inside (to prove). He understood perfectly that for different reasons he wanted to prove himself in another club.

    “He’s not the type of person to wants to prove something against his former club.”

    Prior to joining Chelsea, Palmer had played only 19 senior league games spread over three seasons, and had not scored in the Premier League.

    Yet he is now a genuine contender to deprive his former team-mate Haaland of the Golden Boot won by the Norwegian last season.

    There is also the growing prospect of his being selected in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2024 in Germany this summer.

    “He has to absorb the pressure to play in the Premier League consistently,” said Pochettino, who previously enjoyed success at Tottenham stewarding young talents though their early years, including England captain Harry Kane.

    “It’s about the demands in his private life. He is top scorer. He maybe needs to pay attention to different things than before. That’s going to have an influence on how he is going to prepare himself, how he’s going to rest and going to sleep, how he spends his energy.

    “We need to be careful. We have the experience to manage this type of thing, when a young kid becomes a big star. Why is he not performing in a few months? Because his life has changed. He needs to learn from this experience that is completely different to the past.”

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