England take on Ireland this weekend in their final competitive game before the World Cup kicks off, here are seven things they need to learn…
1.Does Geoff Parling help Tom Youngs in the line out?
There are some serious concerns over the line out as is, so it is vital that Geoff Parling starting has a positive impact on his hookers throwing. This will be a test to see both if Geoff Parling is worthy of a start for England’s World Cup opener, and whether England need to perhaps consider starting Jamie George for his line out accuracy before bringing Tom Youngs into the fray.
2.Do Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph work as a combination?
It seems unfathomable, but somehow England have got to their final World Cup warm up game without their likely starting centre combo so much as having played a single game together. It is therefore vital to see if the pair can work as a midfield duo during a competitive international, and how the combination affects the players around them.
3.Can George Ford rise to the big occasion?
There have been some concerns after the last France game that George Ford does not perhaps yet have the mental fortitude to cope with high pressure rugby. It is therefore vital to see that he can cope with the likely onslaught Ireland will bring to ensure that should England make the latter stages of the competition, that he can cope with the pressure.
4.Can Sam Burgess cope?
Burgess had an impressive debut for England against France, although admittedly it was against a second string midfield. He will have no such luxuries should he enter the fray against Ireland so it is therefore of the utmost importance that he proves he can step up. Given Brad Barritt’s recent injury record it seems even more important he is able to step in.
5.Can the pack front up?
In the last game against France, England’s almost first choice pack were comprehensively outplayed for the first 70 minutes of the game. Many England fans will be hoping that this was just a hangover from the intense training schedule in the build up to the tournament, however they need to front up this week against Ireland and prove they have what it takes.
6.Can the team cope with Joe Schmidt’s strategy?
It’s likely that if England are going to go anywhere in the World Cup, they will at some stage have to face Ireland in the knockouts. During this years Six Nations they were comprehensively outplayed, it is therefore vital they prove they can cope with Joe Schmidt’s strategy, particularly if the high balls start raining down on the back three.
7.Can Jonny May step it up again
After a man of the match worthy performance in the first warm up game against France, Jonny May struggled to make much of an impact during the second fixture. He is now set to start his third game in a row, and could be targeted by Ireland as a potential weakness. He therefore now needs to step up and prove he can step in should England need him during the World Cup.