England coach Eddie Jones ready for street fight in Six Nations opener with Ireland | Rugby | Sport

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The England coach can count on one hand the number of times that has happened in his tenure and he is making the most of it having picked a group of “streetfighters” to take on champions Ireland.

It is not often the nation with the most players and resources in the championship can lay claim to a free shot with the catapult at the beastly green ogre but with Irish rugby at an all-time high, Jones was more than happy to do so yesterday.

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“You want to play the best in the world away from home and Ireland are the best in the world at the moment. Everyone is writing them up. Everyone expects them to win. They have got to carry that expectation round,” he said.

“How they’re thinking, I don’t know – and I’m not really concerned. The only thing I’m concerned about is how we’re thinking and we all think that we can win.

“The boys are fit, they’re together, they’re serious but they’ve got a smile on their face. They’re good to go and they want to make England proud. We’re excited about the prospect of playing there.”

The image of the plucky street urchin does not quite fit an England 15 containing eight Lions but after the contrasting fortunes experience by both sides in last season’s championship they have it all to do at the Aviva Stadium where they have not scored a try in their last three visits.

The side Jones settled on yesterday has balance and power aplenty with the Vunipola brothers back and Tuilagi included in the starting line-up for the first time in four injury-wrecked years.

“I appreciate it 100 per cent more now,” said Tuilagi.

“When you are always fit and well and playing I suppose you don’t really think about it but when you have been out for a long time, I am really thankful that I am back playing.”

Tuilagi prefers to play at outside centre but will operate at inside centre in the absence of Ben Te’o to combat the physical threat of Bundee Aki in a new midfield combination with Henry Slade.

“It has been pretty good in training,” said Slade.

“I’m not the biggest guy – if you want a big carrier winning collisions in tight traffic then I’m not your man – but those are Manu’s strengths and hopefully my strengths cover his weaknesses as well. It’s a good match.

“He’s really excited and I’m really excited to play with him. He’s looking strong fit and really good. If you run into him you get smoked.”

Jones has identified two areas where he thinks the game will be won and lost – the breakdown and the aerial battle.

Tom Curry and Mark Wilson will have added responsibility for the former with Elliot Daly holding off the challenge of Mike Brown to deal with the latter – albeit with a little borderline illegal blocking from his friends.

Jones has a habit, when talking to journalists, of moving their dictaphones around to help explain himself visually. When he was asked about the high ball contest yesterday an awful lot of devices were placed between the Daly dictaphone and the Irish chasers.

“We’re much better at tracking back now to protect our catchers, which is a massive part of the game now,” said Jones. “Every team does it. It’s a big part of the game. You make sure your catcher’s got a good situation to catch in.”

The selection of George Kruis ahead of Courtney Lawes, who is on the bench, and Joe Launchbury, who will not be involved at all, is intended to combat Ireland’s lineout while Jack Nowell edges out Chris Ashton for his work rate and tenacity on the wing.

“When you go to Dublin it’s not going to be a nice game. It’s going to be a tough old game and he’s a streetfighter,” said Jones.

Ireland: R Henshaw (Leinster); K Earls (Munster), G Ringrose (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster), D Toner (Leinster), J Ryan (Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster). Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), Q Roux (Connacht), S O’Brien (Leinster), J Cooney (Ulster), J Carbery (Munster), J Larmour (Leinster).

England: E Daly (Wasps); J May (Leicester), H Slade (Exeter), M Tuilagi (Leicester), J Nowell (Exeter); O Farrell (Saracens, capt), B Youngs (Leicester); M Vunipola (Saracens), J George (Saracens), K Sinckler (Harlequins), M Itoje (Saracens), G Kruis (Saracens), M Wilson (Newcastle), T Curry (Sale Sharks), B Vunipola (Saracens). Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), E Genge (Leicester), H Williams (Exeter), C Lawes (Northampton), N Hughes (Wasps), D Robson (Wasps), G Ford (Leicester), C Ashton (Sale Sharks).

Referee: Jerome Garces (France).



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