RBS Six Nations: England v Ireland match preview

Last Updated: 22/02/14 11:52am

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Owen Farrell (L) and Chris Robshaw: Face major challenge on Saturday

Owen Farrell (L) and Chris Robshaw: Face major challenge on Saturday

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England's Six Nations campaign reaches a critical juncture when they take on Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Stuart Lancaster's side began their campaign with an agonising late defeat to France in Paris and know that another loss would effectively end their hopes of taking the title.

However, a second straight victory to follow on from their 20-0 thrashing of Scotland a fortnight ago would put them right back in contention for overall honours.

Lancaster has made just one enforced change to his starting XV for the showdown, David Wilson coming in for Dan Cole at prop after the latter saw his participation in the competition ended by a neck injury.

Centre Luther Burrell and wings Jack Nowell and Jonny May will all make their home debuts as England continue to build for the future ahead of next year's World Cup.

Meanwhile, Bath fly-half George Ford is set to make his first Test appearance of any description after being named as a replacement in place of Saracens centre Brad Barritt.

Battle

But it is up front where the decisive battle may well be fought and flanker Tom Wood has challenged England's pack to realise their potential by establishing themselves as legends in the mould of Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio.

"We've got that type of potential within our pack. Those names are legends, all-time greats and who don't just develop overnight," Wood said.

"You can win man of the match, but that does not make you a Johnson or Dallaglio. They did it week in, week out for 10 years. To get to that legendary status you need to back it up week in, week out.

"You need to do it too when you are the target, when you are on the pedestal. And that's a different challenge again. I have got every faith in our pack. I think we are a very competitive unit, forging a real bond, played together."

Ireland have named an unchanged starting XV for the clash, with centre Brian O'Driscoll recovering from a stomach bug to win a cap which will see him equal George Gregan's world record of 139 international appearances.

Expectations

The visitors go into the clash on the back of victories over Wales and Scotland and success at Twickenham would raise expectations of a Grand Slam.

Such an achievement would be a fitting way to cap the career of legendary centre O'Driscoll, who has been hailed by captain Paul O'Connell as a driving force behind the country's improvement over the last decade.

O'Connell said: "He's spread confidence across the whole set-up; he's been playing for Ireland ever since I've been involved.

"I grew up watching Ireland in the 90s and maybe that confidence wasn't there when an Irish team took the field.

"I think any team that takes the field with Brian in it always feels they have a chance of winning.

"You see that confidence now spread across the provinces, you see guys like Johnny Sexton that have, I suppose, watched and learned under Brian."

England: 15 Brown, 14 Nowell, 13 Burrell, 12 Twelvetrees, 11 May, 10 Farrell, 9 Care, 1 Marler, 2 Hartley, 3 Wilson, 4 Launchbury, 5 Lawes, 6 Wood, 7 Robshaw (c), 8 B Vunipola
Replacements: 16 T Youngs, 17 M Vunipola, 18 Thomas, 19 Attwood, 20 Morgan, 21 Dickson, 22 Ford, 23 Goode

Ireland: 15 R Kearney, 14 Trimble, 13 O'Driscoll, 12 D'Arcy, 11 D Kearney, 10 Sexton, 9 Murray, 1 Healy, 2 Best, 3 Ross, 4 Toner, 5 O'Connell (c), 6 O'Mahony, 7 Henry, 8 Heaslip
Replacements: 16 Cronin, 17 McGrath, 18 Moore, 19 Henderson, 20 Murphy, 21 Boss, 22 Jackson, 23 McFadden

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