David Corkery: My heart says Ireland but England will shade this battle

After disappointing Six Nations campaigns, both countries would love to finish on a high
David Corkery: My heart says Ireland but England will shade this battle

Jonny May of England beats Peter O'Mahony to score a try at Twickenham last Novement. Picture: David Rogers, RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images.

IRELAND versus England: The fixture that gets everybody’s blood racing that little bit quicker.

Irrespective of what sport you follow, any time you see that Ireland are clashing with our nearest and dearest neighbours, it agitates the particles of your DNA that ignites some form of animosity.

I guess history is history and some people will never forgive or forget. Yet if there has been one universal mediator to mend political relationships, you would have to say sport would be it.

There are so many cases where sport has helped heal a deep political wound and hopefully there will be many more. For now, the clashes between England and Ireland will remain opportunities for eyes to bulge, chests to be pounded and mouths to froth in celebration or disgust.

There is no point in stating that both sides must win this game because every international is viewed as a must-win encounter. However, on this occasion, both nations have underperformed in this year’s tournament and their respective coaches have so many selection policies they need to defend, and strategical blueprints they need to explain.

Coaching can be a vulnerable and isolating place.

That can be standing on the sideline in your local U10s all following the ball like a swarm of bees and your whistle dangling around your neck. Or sitting in a plush corporate box with lap-tops, radios and GPS information monitors informing you of how fast your tight-head is getting from scrum to line-out. 

There are certain pressures and expectation across the board in coaching.

That's especially the case with the money involved at the elite level that Andy Farrell and Eddie Jones find themselves.

With the eyes of the world transfixed upon you, there's only so much a coach can do to resolve the immediate.  problems their players face. Every ball the players drop or tackle they miss is your fault. And in nine cases out of 10, you are the one that must answer for their failings.

Both Farrell and Jones are very different characters and the roads they have previously travelled are worlds apart, but the interesting thing is they steer their ships in similar ways.

Jones, who played the game as a hooker but didn’t reach the dizzy heights of Farrell’s distinguished playing career, has an incredible coaching résumé but his manner divides opinion. He is like the jar of Marmite, you either loath him or love him. 

Personally, I admire his honesty and he is never afraid to play mind games which I think is a great way of promoting and increasing the significance of any match.

Farrell, on the other hand, is more of a straight-shooter when it comes to interviews on game day, but both are very big advocates of playing a very structured game-plan. They rely very heavily on their defences to win games.


The kicking game has also played a big part in defining both coaches' attacking philosophies and as sure as night follows day, we will witness the usual tedious bouts of aerial ping-pong this weekend between both full-backs and wingers.

I know rugby at this level is all about reducing the risks and capitalising on your strengths. Here, Farrell and his coaching ticket will need to be very careful on how much ball they kick and especially on who they target as the receivers.

Jonny May, who will occupy the English number 11 jersey tomorrow, is one of the best finishers the game has ever produced. If Gibson Park, Conor Murray or Johnny Sexton kick poorly in his direction, the team in green jerseys will find themselves huddled under the goalposts far more often than they would like.

Up front as we all know is where games are won or lost, we can expect a titanic battle to be played out and when you look at the weaponry that both packs are carrying, do not be surprised if you see a lot of collateral damage.

I think the front rows will cancel each other out, the second-row physicality battle might be shaded by the English and what happens between the backrows will determine the victors.

CJ Stander of Ireland is tackled just short of the English try line. Retiring this summer, he gave everything in the green geansaí, Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
CJ Stander of Ireland is tackled just short of the English try line. Retiring this summer, he gave everything in the green geansaí, Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The news of CJ Stander’s departure from the game at the end of this season has come as a bit of a shock to all and while his timing might well be questionable, his unrelenting efforts on the field can never be doubted. I’m sure everyone will wish him well, but for now, he has a job to do and let's hope he can sign off with a memorable display.

The return of Peter O’Mahony to the squad has come at a great time for Farrell and I’m sure his doggish style of play will be needed to curtail the ball carrying capabilities of brothers Billy and Mako Vunipola and the insatiable Tom Curry.

A win for either side could see them occupy second position in the final Six Nations league table and even if neither country will be happy with a runners-up medal, it would be a great improvement on where they found themselves a few weeks ago.

Heart says Ireland, head says England.

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