Scrum battle could hold key to outcome in crucial Twickenham game
England go into their first home fixture of the 2014 Six Nations campaign on the back of a resounding 20-0 victory over Scotland, but have had to make a key change to their line-up ahead of their must-win encounter with Ireland.
With a bulging disc neck injury ruling out tight-head Dan Cole for the rest of the season, head coach Stuart Lancaster has chosen Bath’s David Wilson over 22-year-old Sale player Henry Thomas as his replacement.
It looks as if Lancaster has decided to side with the experience of Wilson, who has 31 caps and impressed in England’s tour of Argentina last year.
However, the 28-year-old only returned to action last weekend after two months out with a calf problem and managed just 47 minutes.
With that in mind, there is a major doubt about Wilson being able to last a full match and, although he is arguably a better ball-runner than Cole, he offers less in the tackle and ruck.
That is a worry for England supporters as Ireland will surely try to out outmuscle them and maintain their unbeaten record in the competition.
The Irish, who are 13/8 with Coral to emerge victorious, are the top points scorers so far and bidding to land Triple Crown following victories in Dublin against Scotland (28-6) and last year’s winners Wales (26-3).
They are yet to concede a try, and will have been boosted by the news that legendary centre Brian O’Driscoll is fit to be in the XV following a stomach upset.
Everything suggests this will be a titantic battle, and England know they must use home advantage to win and keep their title hopes alive.
The stats are certainly positive as far as England are concerned. They are on a three-match winning streak against Ireland and have a head-to-head lead of 73-46 in Six Nations encounters.
If they are to further enhance that record, they will have to be at their strongest defence-wise, and hope that Mike Brown and Luther Burrell can add to their try tally.
That pair are responsible for all four of England’s tries so far, bagging two each, and can be backed at 12/5 and 3/1 respectively with Coral in the anytime try scorer market.