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04th Mar 2024

The Ireland team that needs to start at Twickenham, and turn England over

Patrick McCarry

Ireland team

Subtle, yet important, changes.

Andy Farrell heads back to Twickenham, this weekend, with an Ireland team that can retain their Six Nations title if they secure a bonus point win.

Ireland are currently six points clear, atop the standings, after wins over France, Italy and Wales. Steve Borthwick’s side had been the last country left, aside from Ireland, capable of winning a Grand Slam, heading into those round three fixtures. They started well against Scotland but fell to a Duhan van der Merwe hat-trick and some neat string-pulling from Finn Russell.

England’s flat attack [they have six tries and a -4 points difference after three games] has already led to some unfortunate leaks from those close to their camp. In The Telegraph, Dan Schofield has stated:

‘We understand that there is growing frustration within parts of the camp that far more time is devoted to building the hyper-aggressive blitz defence under Felix Jones than honing the attack under Richard Wigglesworth. That lack of focus stands in stark contrast to how the most innovative attacks in the Premiership operate.’

Felix Jones, the former Munster and Ireland fullback, has been a key figure in South Africa’s 2019 and 2023 World Cup wins but, it would appear, the training ground focus on his new defensive systems have irked some within the England set-up. That Jones ‘blitz defence’ was discussed on the latest House of Rugby as part of a wider preview of the crunch Six Nations game:

Ireland team
Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter and the whole Ireland team will be dialled in for Twickenham. (Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile)

Ireland team changes we would like to see

During that House of Rugby episode, host Máire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill teased out possible Ireland team calls, and match-day squad changes, with myself and Lindsay Peat for the England game.

Both of us were of a mind to go with Hugo Keenan, if he can pass his fitness markers, and revert Ciarán Frawley back to the bench, with a 6:2 split in favour of the forwards. On that bench, it would be interesting to see in Finlay Bealham or Oli Jager backs up Tadhg Furlong. Going forward-heavy with the replacements means Farrell can call on James Ryan, Ryan Baird and Jack Conan to try see out the game.

The only other big call is outside centre, if Garry Ringrose is passed fit and is back in the selection mix. It would be hard to break up the Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw partnership. We would side with retaining Henshaw and possibly bringing Ringrose back into the fold for the final game, against Scotland.


15. Hugo Keenan
14. Calvin Nash
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. James Lowe
10. Jack Crowley
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Andrew Porter
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Joe McCarthy
5. Tadhg Beirne
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, James Ryan, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ciarán Frawley.

Andy Farrell will name his Ireland team this Thursday afternoon (March 7).

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