Myles Mcdevitt- UCFB Wembley 2nd Feburary
England will start 2019 facing their toughest challenge yet against Ireland in Dublin in the Six Nations. In a year which sees the Rugby World Cup taking place in Asia for the first time, This is the game that England wouldn’t like to start off with as they gear up for a massive year.
There is no doubt that this is Eddie Jones’s biggest year as England coach. Fail to get beyond the group stage and quarter final and Jones will be gone. 2018 saw England start with two wins in the Six Nations. Then came devastating losses to Ireland, Scotland and France in the Six Nations. They were beaten by a Barbarians outfit pack full of international superstars and blew first half leads in the first two tests on tour against South Africa.
However, England showed signs of brilliance to finish of 2018 in style. Winning three autumn internationals illustrated a team rebuilding and even in defeat against the World Champions New Zealand, you could instantly see that this was an England side that was a million miles away from the Six Nations and the Summer tour in South Africa.
England’s backline will cause Ireland some trouble this Saturday with the high-flying Jonny May playing superbly for club and he also impressed pundits and fans alike in the Autumn scoring against Australia. Manu Tulagi and Chris Ashton are in the matchday 23, with Tulagi starting and Ashton on the bench. The inclusions of those two harks back to the early days of Stuart Lancaster’s reign as head coach of England when those two gave English Rugby an afternoon to saviour in 2012 beating the All Blacks.
All eyes though will be on the battle at Number ten. Owen Farrell and Jonny Sexton lock horns with each other. Sexton voted World Rugby player of the year last November will look to control the game whilst Farrell’s temperament in big games comes under scrutiny given, he was lucky to escape punishment against South Africa in the Autumn for a clear high tackle.
England go into this game knowing that they will not have it easy against the Irish. Ireland are hot favourites for the World Cup and have turned the Aviva Stadium into a fortress. England know they will need to produce something extraordinary this afternoon and it will be intriguing to see what they come up with.