David Corkery: Ireland and England in rugby is always special

David Corkery: Ireland and England in rugby is always special

Ireland's CJ Stander with England's George Ford in the country's last meeting back in February. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

IRELAND against England, a fixture that stirs the purest of green, white and gold.

Whether you love or loath rugby most people will tune into this game tomorrow for one reason or another.

Some will don the full Irish kit and be ready to scream and roar at the box two hours before the game kicks off, whilst others will momentarily interrupt their DIY chores to check in on the score.

Either way a win for Ireland will please everyone on the island and give us a fleeting lift from the current doom and gloom that shrouds us all.

To be brutally honest I’m finding this whole concept of an Autumn Nations Cup a bit of a damp squid and now with the France v Fiji game getting pulled because Fiji returned a count of 29 positive tests, the very viability of the tournament must come under scrutiny.

This is now the second game that has had to be cancelled after last week’s tie between Italy and Fiji was also deemed unplayable and with the non-offending side getting awarded the full five points, it just turns what could have been a very interesting tournament into a lottery.

Watching this game tomorrow in the vast abyss of Twickenham will be a strange occurrence, but for the players, it won’t make a whole pile of difference.

I’m sure that the RFU will be doing their best to set the scene and create some kind of atmosphere by having the loudspeakers blasting out the fake hullabaloo and we might even be privy to the odd flash of pyrotechnics, however, for the players, as soon as French referee Pascal Gauzere blows his whistle to start the game everything else that exists outside the extremities of the hallowed turf of Twickenham will evaporate.

All that stand-in Irish captain James Ryan and his players will be focusing on is the 15 white jerseys that stand before them and finding a passage through towards the try line, a course that will not be all that easy to navigate.

International rugby has changed so much over the last 15 years and where once there was space to exploit there now stands a wall of pre-programmed defenders who will have your every move analysed to the nth degree and any lapse of concentration will be punished.

If any player, be, they in white or green is not in the correct state of mind and tunes out even for the briefest of moments, they will either be smashed to the ground as a ball carrier or made look like a complete novice as a defender.

Lock James Ryan. Picture: Donall Farmer/PA Wire.
Lock James Ryan. Picture: Donall Farmer/PA Wire.

There will be no time to admire the surroundings and zero room for error in this game and you can be 100% assured that the English back row will have their sights on Johnny Sexton’s understudy.

When the news that Sexton was going to be ruled out for this game broke it made the tie a whole lot more interesting and for Irish rugby moving forward, I think it is a welcome development that someone else is getting the opportunity to shepherd the flock.

As we all know Sexton’s time in the green jersey is gradually running out and if you want an opportunity to see if there is a viable alternative to his crown, there is no better place than the mass concrete goliath of Twickenham to test for his predecessor.

In the driving seat at the moment is Sexton's Leinster teammate the 25-year-old Ross Byrne.

Although he was left out of last week’s match-day squad against woeful Wales, Byrne has got the seal of approval by Andy Farrell for this game.

He has only started one previous test for Ireland, which also came at Twickenham when Ireland suffered an embarrassing wipeout in last year’s World Cup warm-up game (57-15). So the first thing Byrne must do is banish all memories of that game before he does anything else.

To be at the wrong end of a scoreline like this can have a very long and detrimental effect on your overall game and Byrne, who must have a blinder if Ireland are going to stand any chance of leaving London with a win, must take to the turf tomorrow as if he owns the place.

Under the supervision of Eddie Jones, England have matured as an attacking backline, but reverted to back to bully-boy tactics up front that brought England so much glory in their illustrious history.

You may think this is a bad thing, however, if you have the personnel to inflict this kind of suffering on your opponent it affords you the perfect blend to rack up a serious scoreline.

With players like Owen Farrell pulling the strings and Vunipola parting the waves, Ireland’s defence must be running on full throttle and be prepared to be very sore at the end of the game.

The other side of Ireland’s game that must show a marked improvement is turning territory into points when the opportunity presents.

England will not afford Ireland one-quarter of the opportunities that Wales gave them last week and they must leave England’s twenty-two with some kind of score whenever they are allowed to venture in.

For players like Byrne and some of the lesser well-known players, they must approach this game as if it was their last.

The competition for green jerseys is getting bigger every year and if you survive in Twickenham against what is a very strong English side, you are well on the road to becoming a long-term prospect.

I think our old foes will be too strong for us at home, but if everything goes to plan and we are not intimidated we might have a glimmer of hope.

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