Posted on 15 Mar 2012 at 15:48 PM by Ruck Driver
For someone who spent the bulk of their formative years watching England dominate the European Rugby scene, culminating in their World Cup success, it was somewhat surreal to watch the post match analysis of England's defeat to Wales at Twickenham, where the vibe was unquestionably positive. The fact that a try against the run of play had cost England the win was not really being discussed and all the commentators looking at the game from an English perspective were very upbeat. This was incredible to listen to after they'd just been subjected to a home defeat.
England's subsequent result in Paris may have justified that positive sentiment to a certain extent, but the key issue here is that England have a tendency to suffocate the French. Old rugby sages in the South of France may not have a huge amount of respect for "Les Rosbifs" but they have yet to really master the art of negating England's methodical way of taking the flair out of the game and winning tight battles in those matches.
Now, England are favoured by the betting community to secure a home win over Ireland at Twickenham, which frankly makes no sense whatsoever. Against Scotland and Italy, England laboured to hard fought wins while Ireland cruised to victory. England were delighted to even stay close to the Welsh while Ireland lost out due to a controversial late penalty, and there was little to choose between the two sides in their respective performances against France. Yes home advantage is worth something, but in a competition where twelve games have been played so far and there were six away wins, five home wins and one draw, one has to wonder how much of a value can really be placed on playing the fixture in North London? After all, neither of these teams have been beaten on the road yet.
Plenty of bookmakers are giving Ireland a three point start here and while a lot of what England are doing right now makes sense - they needed to start fresh with the next World Cup in mind, Stuart Lancaster is clearly gelling well with the players and they needed to start from a base point of consolidating the set piece. Certainly in that regard, England look well poised on Sunday and Ireland will do incredibly well to hold their own, particularly at lineout time and if England get the maul going, which has been Ireland's weak point this year. The problem is that when England do get the ball, they still seem somewhat unsure about what to do with it. Ireland have a lot more ingenuity, creativity and frankly, they have a lot more rugby know how. It makes no sense to be making such a prediction when facing a nation with ten times as many rugby players, but Ireland look like a great bet on Saturday and should add another bit of spice to the St Patrick's Day celebrations. Bet365 lead the betting at 6/4 and they should be your first port of call for an eighth win over England in nine attempts for the Irish.