Eddie Jones stated that he considers this to be the biggest game of the England season, clearly forgetting that the Six Nations Championship will start in two months’ time, but it is understandable that he may be confused about which season we are in now. His feelings for this are mostly reflected in the “ all players, no filler choice ” with the only exception to the rule of being Lawrence’s first in position as George Ford is back on the bench but not the starting line-up.
Maru Itogi returns to the lock and Sam Underhill takes the seven jersey from Jack Willis, whom Eddie Jones tells him to leave the pool entirely after his paddle at the shallow end against Georgia.
Both current first options for Ireland suffered an injury against Wales. Johnny Sexton is totally out and Billy Burns can only sit on the bench after going through his brain injury protocols the past few days. This means Leinster’s Ross Byrne and his eight matches (one start) are in at ten, which should give Ireland fans some tension given his only international debut which saw his team win 57-15 from England. Andy Farrell says, “I have no worries whatsoever,” but he will say that is not the case? Sexton’s absence also forces Farrell to turn to James Ryan to be his debut with the Captain, and there’s also an unflattering return to passionate young Ronan Keeler in his fifth hat.
Elsewhere, Keith Earls playing with Andrew Conway, the boomerang group of Aki and Chris Farrell in the middle and Hugo Keenan – the international discovery of Farrell’s reign so far – for me continues as a fullback.
EnglandBy: Elliott Daly. Jonathan Joseph, Ole Lawrence, Henry Slade, Johnny May; Owen Farrell (Captain), Ben Youngs; Mako Funibola, Jimmy George, Kyle Sinkler, Maru Etoji, Joe Lanshbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Funibola.
Alternatives: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Ellis Genji, 18 Will Stewart, 19 Johnny Hill, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Max Malins.
Ireland: Hugo Kenan; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bondi Aki, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson Park; Sian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Queen Row, James Ryan (Captain), CJ Standard, Peter O’Mahony, Kylan Doris.
Alternatives: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Pelham, 19 Ian Henderson, 20 Will Connors, 21 Connor Murray, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jacob Stockdale.