Billy Vunipola’s red card continues England’s pre-World Cup woes in Ireland loss

By Sports Desk August 19, 2023

Billy Vunipola was sent off as England’s stuttering World Cup preparations were thrown into further disarray by a costly 29-10 defeat to Ireland amid Owen Farrell’s ongoing disciplinary saga.

The number eight is likely to miss the start of the tournament in France after his 53rd-minute yellow card for making contact with the head of Andrew Porter was upgraded to red.

Steve Borthwick’s men were comfortably dispatched in a disjointed Dublin affair, which influential captain Farrell sat out following the fallout of his dismissal against Wales last weekend.

Vunipola’s premature departure compounded a meek display and he will now join Saracens team-mate Farrell in facing a disciplinary panel with England’s World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9 fast approaching.

Keith Earls marked his 100th cap by claiming the fifth of Ireland’s tries, adding to scores from Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, James Lowe and Mack Hansen, as the hosts retained their place at the top of the world rankings courtesy of a 12th successive win.

Andy Farrell’s dominant side were far from their free-flowing best but still had too much for their depleted rivals, although the first-half departure of hooker Dan Sheehan is a concern.

Replacement prop Kyle Sinckler claimed a late try shortly before Earls stylishly celebrated his milestone appearance but it was little consolation for the visitors.

England crossed the Irish Sea seeking the greatest win of the Borthwick era so far to ignite their World Cup build-up but they were in unconvincing form especially with the situation surrounding skipper Farrell dominating headlines.

Replacement fly-half Ford slotted an early penalty before the away team were swiftly put on the back foot as a superb break from Peter O’Mahony allowed Aki to charge beyond Ben Youngs and touch down under the posts, leaving Ross Byrne with a simple conversion.

While England have endured a tumultuous time since finishing runners-up at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Six Nations champions Ireland have enjoyed an impressive period of progression masterminded by head coach Farrell.

The Englishman fielded the bulk of his star names for the first time since clinching the Grand Slam against Borthwick’s men in March, which perhaps explained frustrating levels of rustiness in a fragmented opening period littered with stoppages.

Ford missed the chance to reduce England’s deficit with a second penalty before Ireland’s Sheehan hobbled off due to an apparent injury.

There looked like being no further inroads on the scoreboard before the break until Hansen’s clever cross-field kick exposed the opposition’s defence, with Ringrose inadvertently propelled over the try-line by a combination of Elliot Daly and Freddie Steward.

England, who are expected to learn the fate of Farrell in midweek, offered very little from an attacking perspective in a fairly forgettable first half which they ended 12-3 behind.

Their evening quickly took a turn for the worse when Vunipola ploughed into Porter.

Referee Paul Williams initially deemed the sin-bin to be sufficient punishment but the England back-rower, whose trudge from the field coincided with Farrell flashing up the big screen to a chorus of boos, would not return.

Ireland wasted little time in capitalising on their numerical advantage as Lowe was afforded yards of space to catch Byrne’s pass and cross wide on the left, before Hansen added to their misery by diving over on the other flank.

England’s attempts to avoid a drubbing were helped by Sinckler bulldozing over.

But they were powerless to prevent Ireland registering a fourth consecutive win in this fixture, with veteran wing Earls raising the roof thanks to a spectacular diving finish on his landmark outing.

Related items

  • England wing Jess Breach wary of rapidly improving Scotland in Six Nations clash England wing Jess Breach wary of rapidly improving Scotland in Six Nations clash

    Jess Breach insists England enter unknown territory when they meet a rapidly improving Scotland in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations on Saturday.

    The Red Roses have not lost in the fixture since suffering an 8-5 defeat in 1998 but that record faces its sternest test yet at a sold-out Hive Stadium in Edinburgh, where a record crowd of 7,774 will be attendance.

    Scotland toppled Wales in Cardiff in round one before being edged by France a week later and, having won the WXV 2 tournament in October, there is evidence the 28 professional contracts awarded at the end of 2022 are raising standards.

    England remain favourites but wing Breach insists the element of jeopardy is good for the Red Rose and the Six Nations.

    “It is going to be a really competitive game. And we’ve probably never been in this scenario with Scotland before,” said Breach, who has won on all 35 of her caps.

    “Everyone’s really excited because it’s going to be challenging for us. Hopefully we can showcase really good rugby for the fans.

    “It’s great for the competition. You can see that every nation is getting better after being contracted.

    “Italy put up a great fight against us in the first half, so it just shows that if money is pumped into the game and players are allowed to go full time, the Six Nations gets better.”

    Demonstrating the growth of women’s rugby is that Scotland’s victory 26 years ago was staged at an independent school in Edinburgh, compared to a packed Hive Stadium in 2024.

    “It feels like we’re growing and heading in the right direction. Every nation wants big crowds,” Breach said.

    “That’s happening at the moment and heading into the 2025 World Cup we should be able to sell most stadiums out. It’s exciting and who doesn’t want to be part of women’s rugby?”

  • On this day in 2004: Brian Lara makes record Test score of 400 not out On this day in 2004: Brian Lara makes record Test score of 400 not out

    On this day 20 years ago, Brian Lara regained the individual Test score world record on his way to an unbeaten 400 against England in the fourth Test in Antigua.

    Ten years after hitting 375 to claim the world record for an individual innings against England at the same venue, Lara exceeded that effort by becoming the first player in history to score 400.

    By doing so, he became the first player to hold the individual Test innings record twice.

    Lara reclaimed his record from Australian Matthew Hayden, who only six months earlier had broken the record with 380 in Perth in October 2003.

    Lara’s mammoth innings steered the West Indies to a total of 751 for five before declaring and reflecting on his achievement, he said: “When I scored it before I didn’t know what to expect – this time it was very tiring, but I’m here again.

    “Matthew Hayden must have batted very well against Zimbabwe because it doesn’t matter who you are playing against, it’s very hard.

    “It’s a great feeling, but it’s dampened by the series result. Ten years ago the match ended in a draw, but this time we’re looking for a result.”

    Upon achieving the record, Lara was greeted in the middle by Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister of Antigua, while England captain Michael Vaughan hailed Lara as “one of the all-time great players”.

    “We all set out to achieve greatness, but he is a gifted, gifted player – throughout his innings we tested him with a few things but he was much better than us for those two days,” Vaughan said.

    “He is one of the all-time great players, he has achieved something that has never been achieved before even with the amount of pressure he had on him before the start of this Test.

    “He will go down as one of the greats of the game and it will take some player and some performance to beat his 400.”

    Mahela Jayawardene went close with 374 for Sri Lanka against South Africa two years later but Lara remains first and third on the list two decades on.

  • Rob Baxter urges Exeter to have ‘belief’ against Toulouse in Champions Cup Rob Baxter urges Exeter to have ‘belief’ against Toulouse in Champions Cup

    Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter wants his team to take the experience of winning in France into their tough Champions Cup meeting with Toulouse on Sunday.

    The Chiefs fought back to beat Bath 21-15 last week to book their spot in the quarter-finals but now have the challenge of facing five-time champions Toulouse at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.

    Exeter are underdogs heading into the clash but are familiar with the feeling of winning in France, having kicked off their Champions Cup campaign with a thrilling 19-18 victory over Toulon in December.

    Baxter knows the size of the task ahead of his team but thinks the result earlier in the season has instilled the belief to do something similar this weekend.

    Speaking at a press conference, Baxter said: “The Toulon game was something that created an element of belief of ‘we are doing the right things and heading in the right direction’ amongst the players and you need that.

    “I think it gives the players an element of belief that we can do it, go over there and play the big sides, but I also think it gives them a level of looking forward to it because, without doubt when you go and experience the atmosphere, the noise level at the end of the game was incredible for anyone who was there.

    “That’s created the excitement and nervous anticipation around the squad this week in training which is exactly what you want to be.”

    Exeter responded well to beat Bath on Saturday after they were thrashed 41-5 at the hands of Sale the week before.

    Baxter revealed the players had clear-the-air discussions prior to their win last week, but the Chiefs boss now wants his side to back up the result with another good performance.

    He added: “As a team the lads have got to do the hardest thing to do in sport and get to a really competitive level for two weeks running.

    “At the same time that’s how you win trophies, winning trophies or big games is when you put back-to-back big performances in semi-final to final or last-16 to quarter-final, that’s how things have to happen if you want to win.”

    France’s key man Antoine Dupont will be in action for Toulouse and will undoubtedly be highlighted as a key threat for Baxter’s men to deal with.

    Baxter said: “If you know the opposition nine is a particular threat in the team, the focus isn’t necessarily on the nine it’s the things that allow him to be a threat.

    “Dealing with Dupont will be very difficult if we don’t deal with the other platforms but that goes for any decent player.

    “If we can challenge them in that way, that’s how you potentially limit his opportunities. You can create an environment which is harder for him to show it, that’s how we have to approach the game.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.