England signalled their Rugby World Cup intentions by hammering Ireland 57-15 at Twickenham in their third warm-up game ahead of the global showpiece in Japan.
Tries from Joe Cokanasiga (2), Elliot Daly, Manu Tuilagi, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Tom Curry and Luke Cowan-Dickie proved that Eddie Jones’ men will be genuine contenders this autumn.
For Ireland, Jordan Larmour and Bundee Aki touched down, but the Men in Green were simply vulnerable everywhere in attack and defence.
Here are the key talking points from a one-sided contest.
ENGLAND BACK TO THEIR BEST
After last week’s defeat to Wales, England controlled everything from the efficiency at the breakdown, tight defence, excellent continuity play, quick line speed, detail around the set-piece and general commitment to the contest.
All the ingredients for a positive performance were on show at Twickenham.
To underline the solidity of England’s defence in the first, in particular, they only missed three out of 63 tackles in comparison to Ireland’s shocking 21 missed tackles from 65.
In the second half, as the players tired out due to the soaring London heat, England missed 13 out of their 43 tackles but continued to push Ireland on the score board.
In total, the Red Rose dominated possession, territory, rucks won, conceded less turnovers and enjoyed more clean breaks and defenders beaten.
It will take a tough and fearless side to beat Jones’ men.
STAR MAN TUILAGI
The England centre was an inspiration for the home side and the most dangerous runner on the park.
Tuilagi got on the scoresheet just before half-time, turning on the power setting to burst over for a try.
He made a stunning 56 metres from 11 runs, with one clean break, seven defenders beaten and even one offload.
Defensively he also did a job with seven tackles made and none missed.
If the 28-year-old can stay injury free, he will be one of Jones’ pivotal figures in Japan.
Special mention must go to Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Cokanasiga and Billy Vunipola who were also top class.
CONTRASTING SET PIECES
Ireland struggled at set-piece and their line-out, in particular, was a complete shambles, losing six of their 15. In contrast, England enjoyed a 100 per cent record at scrum (8/8) and line-out time (15/15).
It was off the set-piece that England looked sharp as they initiated some formidable attacking opportunities, and for all their possession and territory, they made Ireland suffer whenever they stretched the ball out wide.
The line-out did improve once Sean Cronin was introduced for captain Rory Best. At that stage Ireland had lost four out of their eight throws, and once the Leinster man came in, they won five from seven.
Ireland are simply not good enough without a rock-solid set piece.
IRELAND LACK KILLER INSTINCT
The Men in Green weren’t able to hold on to possession, missed tackles and gave away easy turnovers.
They couldn’t string together some precise phases, made bad reads in defence, and, similar to February’s comprehensive Six Nations defeat, they were bullied across the park.
It bodes the question about selection and, even though these are just warm-up games, Jack Conan needs to start ahead of CJ Stander at No8.
The Leinster man has been flawless for his province, while Stander was non-existent against England and has been poor form for the majority of this calendar year.
At lock, Jean Kleyn’s stock certainly dropped after his promising debut performance against Italy two weeks ago. If it is a shoot-out on selection between Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne, then Schmidt needs to opt for the latter because of his versatility and overall impact.
For a side that needs to start with a bang in Japan, Ireland need to improve vastly against Wales next week.
INJURIES TO KEY MEN
The danger with the warm-up matches is the risk of key man picking up injuries.
Bar Mako Vunipola coming off with a hamstring injury late on, England escaped their third warm-up match injury free, while Ireland were robbed of two stars today.
Conor Murray sustained a head injury while tackling Jonny May on 32 minutes and was replaced by Luke McGrath.
The Munster man did look fine when the camera panned to the stands during the second half, but it was Cian Healy’s injury which looked more severe.
The Irish prop was in serious pain but chose to walk off the field with his right ankle in clear discomfort.
Hopefully it’s something minor and he’s not ruled out of the World Cup.
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