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Barritt to provide the missing link as England look to head into World Cup on a high

04 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Barritt to provide the missing link as England look to head into World Cup on a high

Stakes are high for final warm-up match, but return of England's midfield mainstay should help them show Twickenham what they have in store

Momentum. It is a word often bandied about in sport.

Particularly in rugby, where victory rests on forwards grappling for dominance in scrums and rucks and backs getting over the gain line with regularity.

Yet when England and Ireland meet at Twickenham on Saturday those individual battles will not just be responsible for generating momentum on the pitch, but off it as well.

No team wants to head into a World Cup – now just two weeks away – on the back of consecutive losses.

Certainly not England, who are anxiously preparing for their ‘Pool of Death’ which contains three of the top six sides in the world.

And least of all Ireland, who – after successive Six Nations titles – are looking to end a long history of underachievement at international rugby’s showpiece event.

Yet following underwhelming defeats to France and Wales respectively in their most recent outings, that is the reality facing the loser of Saturday’s encounter.

With both teams naming virtually their first-choice side to start the final dress rehearsal before the big kick-off, it certainly promises to be a humdinger at HQ.

Ireland have not won at Twickenham since 2010, when Tommy Bowe scored twice in a 20-16 victory.

The first of the winger’s tries that day came after just four minutes, and having fought his way into Joe Schmidt’s final 31 Bowe is 10/1 to justify his selection by scoring the first try once again.

The Irish won the last match between these two sides 19-9 at Croke Park with Robbie Henshaw scoring the only try of the game – and having been used sparingly thus far during the warm-ups the centre is 4/1 to score at any time.

Ireland were undone last time out by a resurgent Welsh pack who were eager to prove a point after their humbling against the same opposition in Cardiff three weeks earlier – and they can expect to face a similar backlash on Saturday.

England’s forwards were woeful a fortnight ago in Paris, and, back on home soil, they will be determined to prove that such rustiness is now well and truly out of their system.

Equally crucial for England will be the return of Brad Barritt, who is 5/1 to score at any time as he makes his first appearance since November following various injuries.

Stuart Lancaster’s reign has already seen 13 different midfield combinations tried, yet Barritt has been a cornerstone throughout.

How he fares alongside Jonathan Joseph for the very first time on Saturday will reveal much as to the extent of the gamble taken by England in finding a place in the squad for Sam Burgess.

They simply must click if England are to bring their outside backs to the party – both against Ireland and throughout the World Cup.

Joseph has scored five tries in his last six internationals and is 7/4 to touch down at any time on Saturday.

Winger Anthony Watson meanwhile scored a brace in his last outing at Twickenham against France, and is 8/1 to score two or more against the Irish.

It is likely to be close, with the last three meetings between these two sides being decided by a total of 19 points.

But with home advantage England out to just about come out on top, and they are priced at 4/1 to do so by 6-10 points.

England will be wearing their alternative red kit on the day and using the away dressing room, in preparation for what they will be made to do against Fiji in the tournament opener after losing the toss of a coin.

Such attention to detail shows not only that the World Cup is now just around the corner, but also that confidence and self-assuredness in international rugby can be based on very fine margins.

It vital, therefore, that the host nation get back to winning ways at fortress Twickenham and head into their own tournament with that much sought-after commodity – momentum.

England v Ireland match betting

READ: Rugby World Cup Squads: The Home Nations verdict

READ: Alex Spink: Warren Gatland risks a World Cup backlash by winding up England

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