Best Ireland team Andy Farrell should pick to end England hoodoo
"He's someone that could be drafted straight in to start against England."
Two changes to the Ireland team, with a couple more positional shifts due to injuries to James Ryan and Garry Ringrose.
Ireland could still finish second, restore some pride, show they are truly going places, and boost the Lions chances of several of their stars. All they have to do is figure out how to crack a team of hard English nuts.
Back-to-back wins over Italy and Scotland have Ireland in a healthier standing in the Six Nations table but it is still Wales and France fighting for the main prize. Andy Farrell's side could still end up second but, such is the close nature (below Wales) of the championship that a bad defeat could still see them finish fifth.
Several players were excellent in the 27-24 win over Scotland, but some will be hoping they get another chance when the 2020 Six Nations champions visit Dublin this weekend. England have won their last four meetings with Ireland and will have been buoyed by their narrow win over the French.
On the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 15:50 below], former Ulster and Ireland star Chris Henry suggested one backline change that he feels would strengthen the Irish hand.
During their discussion on Ireland's win over Scotland, former Munster winger Ronan O'Mahony pointed out the costly errors - from Garry Ringrose and James Lowe - that led to tries from Finn Russell and Huw Jones.
Henry followed up on that as he noted how the step-up from provincial to Test match rugby can often be unforgiving.
"James Lowe has had a tough enough day with that missed tackle [before the Jones try]. He went high when he had an opportunity to chop him down low. And with those defensive qualities needed for Test match rugby, you can't keep making those mistakes.
"Other players that have made those errors, in the past, may not get another chance. I know with Joe Schmidt, for example, if you made a mistake like that.. rugby is all about being honest with yourself and that would have been brought up in a video review.
"For me, and with my Ulster hat on, I guess, Jacob Stockdale could be someone that could be drafted straight in to start against England. He had a terrific 40 minutes against the Dragons, at the weekend, with some good counter-attacks - as you'd expect - and runs. But the thing for Jacob, at the moment, is he's making some really good defensive reads. He looks in serious condition and his defensive qualities could be really needed against England. And, with the straight swap, you don't lose the left boot."
O'Mahony, though, feels Lowe will get retained in the starting XV despite his recent struggles. Elsewhere, there was not much debate over positions but it must be noted that James Ryan went off for his second Head Injury Assessment of the championship and did not return to the game. He was ruled out of the England game on Monday afternoon.
To my mind, the smart move would be for Tadhg Beirne to drop into the second row and Peter O'Mahony then coming in - after his ban - at blindside. That would see Ireland retain their lineout strength and not drop off too much.
For the back three, even though I backed him to start against Scotland, James Lowe to drop out with Keith Earls switching to the left wing and Jordan Larmour on the right. That would see the wily Earls on Anthony Watson and Larmour facing off against Jonny May. Jacob Stockdale returns, then, but to the Ireland bench.
Garry Ringrose (ankle) has also been ruled out so Bundee Aki is coming back into our XV.
Our Ireland team to face England
15. Hugo Keenan
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Keith Earls
10. Johnny Sexton (c)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park
1. Cian Healy
2. Rob Herring
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. Iain Henderson
6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Will Connors
8. CJ Stander
Subs: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale.
With the game a Saturday afternoon kick-off, Andy Farrell will name his Ireland team to take on the English on Thursday morning.