England set to opt for strength
August 23, 2011
The England management and coaching team - defence coach Mike Ford, forwards coach John Wells, manager Martin Johnson, scrum coach Graham Rowntree, backs coach Brian Smith, kicking coach Dave Alred - pose ahead of the Rugby World Cup © Getty Images
England scrum coach Graham Rowntree has predicted a fierce battle when his side tackle Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday.
The Six Nations rivals will go head-to-head five months after Ireland dashed England's Grand Slam hopes with a 24-8 victory at the same venue with this re-match given added significance due to the impending Rugby World Cup.
England return to Dublin this weekend to complete their World Cup preparations having beaten Wales at home and then lost in frustrating fashion in Cardiff. Ireland are in a similar boat, having lost to Scotland and twice to France over the last three weeks.
There should be no shortage of intensity on show and just a fortnight before England open their World Cup campaign against Argentina in Dunedin, that is exactly what Rowntree wants. "This game is definitely not a friendly," he said. "We have not forgotten what they did to us over there. We got well beaten that day and that is in the back of our minds.
"It will be fuelling our fires at the weekend, that's for sure. That's the beauty of playing a game like this against Ireland so close to getting on the plane. We are purposely playing this close to the World Cup so we get on the plane battle hardened. That means coming off the back of an intense game with a win.
"We were frustrated with that loss in Wales. You only had to look at the gaffer's (Martin Johnson's) face after the game. I'd think Ireland are disappointed with their losses so far. If we lose it will put a bit of pressure on us. It would be nothing we can't handle - but it will put a bit of pressure on us for sure."
England failed to live with Ireland's intensity in the Six Nations meeting and that performance gave Johnson, Rowntree and the management some serious food for thought. "They brought an intensity to the game, to the breakdown and set piece that they hadn't really brought all tournament. They saved that one for us," said Rowntree. We have had a good look at that video in the training camp and it has given us a few things to work on."
England fielded mix-and-match teams against Wales but Rowntree confirmed they plan to name their strongest available team to tackle Ireland. Loose-head prop Andrew Sheridan is in line to make his first appearance of the warm-up campaign against Ireland after recovering from summer shoulder surgery.
But England will be without squad captain Lewis Moody and scrum-half Ben Youngs, who remain sidelined as they continue their comeback from knee injuries. Joe Simpson, selected as England's third scrum-half behind Youngs and Richard Wigglesworth, is set to make his Test debut. Johnson confirms his selection on Thursday.
"We'll have our strongest team out," said Rowntree. "I am not suggesting it will be our starting team against Argentina because we have still got a few positions to sort out in the pecking order. In crucial positions we have people challenging. That is a good thing this close to the World Cup.
"Ben and Lewis wont be involved this weekend. Whether they are involved against Argentina, we will see after week one in New Zealand."
James Haskell was today undergoing a scan on a "minor foot injury".
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