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Stephen Ferris: Ireland to edge Twickenham test against England

| 11.03.2022

Ladbrokes ambassador Stephen Ferris casts his eye over this weekend’s Six Nations games and gives us his best tips from the fourth round.

Ferris has already given us his thoughts on Wales v France and Italy v Scotland, but here he looks at the clash between 11/10 underdogs England and Ireland.

England v Ireland (Sat, 16.45, ITV)

I’ve had my flights booked for months and can’t wait to get over to London for what I feel is one of the biggest sporting occasions on the rugby calendar.

I was messaging my good pal and former England fly-half Andy Goode this week about trying to get his hands on tickets. “They are like gold dust, mate,” was his reply.

It seems every expat will be there to show their support, but also I know there will be a lot of travelling fans as well. A sell-out at Twickers, Ireland are +2 point favourites, and Eddie Jones has said that “Ireland are the most cohesive team in world rugby”. The pot is boiling nicely for this one and hopefully the game lives up to all the hype.

So where are England and have they progressed or regressed since their rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa? There has definitely been a shift in their attacking play, moving away a little from their power game which has served them so well in recent years. It does feel like the players are going to need a little time to adapt and feel confident with this new style.

Watching Ireland’s players look so comfortable with ball in hand from players 1-23 is a joy to watch, but watching England try to replicate some of these skill sets is frustrating to watch at times. It took a while for Ireland to make things click and hopefully it’s something similar for England.

We all know that England have been without some key men for this year’s championship:  Skipper, Owen Farrell, flying winger Jonny May, the constantly unavailable Manu Tuilagi and the magic feet of British and Irish Lion Anthony Watson. This all adds up to not having as much quality on the pitch as Eddie Jones would like. The strength and depth of his squad is being tested and it will face its biggest test yet when Ireland roll into town on Saturday.

The favourites for this game have their own injury concerns. Two of their starting front rowers Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter will miss the rest of the championship. Cian Healy will step in at loose head and Dan Sheehan should retain his place at hooker with Rob Herring on the bench. Touted as the best front row in world rugby at the beginning of the tournament, it now looks like an area of weakness if you are an England supporter. It will be interesting to see if England return to their power game at times and try to dominate the scrum and maul due to the changes in personnel for Ireland.

England have won four of the last five games against Ireland. Surely they can take a lot of confidence from their recent results against the men in green and try to upset the odds and break a few Irish hearts? It’s sure to be a cracking fixture, and if Ireland can get parity at scrum time and around the set-piece, then I think their rugby IQ will win this match.

Led by Jonathan Sexton, who has just signed a new contract until after the 2023 Rugby World Cup, I feel he will direct his team to victory at Twickenham for the first time since 2018.

Prediction: Ireland win @ 4/5

First try scorer: Garry Ringrose @ 16/1

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Warren Barner