By Harry Thompson
England’s form of late has been much like the recent storms sweeping the UK. At times powerful, sometimes destructive but generally damp and demoralising.
They will be returning to Twickenham for the first time this Six Nations, but will their home advantage really give them anything other than more pressure following their recent lacklustre form?
The last game against Scotland was one where watching the highlights reel really captured the crux of the game.
Scotland looked flat in attack and England weren’t much better, although a couple of missed Scottish tackles enabled Mike Brown to score a clinical try under the posts which was followed up by Owen Farrell’s precise kicking to leave England ahead 20-0 at the final whistle.
Ahead of this weekend’s game against Ireland, England will be looking for another strong performance from Luther Burrell who has so far managed two tries from as many appearances in a white shirt.
The centre partnership against Scotland looked strong again in defence, although some more adventurous play from Twelvetrees, given his place in the starting line-up is as a distributor, would have enabled Jonny May and Jack Nowell more into the game.
This week, the news of Sam Burgess’s switch to Rugby Union next season will have Twelvetrees looking to secure his own place under immense media scrutiny, and this could mean more rash decisions on Billy’s part which, when facing as experienced a centre as Brian O’Driscoll, could leave the England midfield open to Irish counter-attacks.
The battle of the packs should be reasonably even given the power of the Irish back-row and England’s mobile forwards, such as Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury.
The edge will be determined by conditions because if England can get their forward offloading game going they will be too much for the lumbering likes of Rory Best and company.
The set-piece battle should be interesting too, as late call-up David Wilson starts in place of England’s Dan Cole this Saturday.
Unfortunately, it looks as though Wilson will be the target of Ireland’s Cian Healy given his earlier comments that he believes he can “only last 50 or 60 minutes this weekend,” which is never an encouraging tone to be leaking from an experienced international only three days before a test match.
England fans will be hoping that the current form of their line-out will continue, enabling the England backs a strong platform from which to attack, given that the scrum will probably be struggling without Dan Cole this weekend.
Finally, a quick note on England’s fly-halves; as most of the British rugby world will already know, George Ford has received his call-up on to the England bench this week at only twenty years old.
Ford has looked more calm and co-ordinated than the other England youngster, Jack Nowell, this season in the Premiership and so fans will be hoping that he will be able to get some quality ball off England’s line-out from which to attack the defensive line in his characteristic manner.
Hopefully, Ford’s inclusion will also propel Owen Farrell into some more attacking form too as he feels the squeeze, enabling the backs some chances to actually run at defences rather than just kicking over them.
In my opinion this weekend will see England run out winners by four points.
So long as they finally start offering some excitement in attack then fans won’t be too disappointed about their return to Twickenham.
Photograph: David Howlett