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England coach Jones hails Ireland quality ahead of Six Nations clash

England coach Jones hails Ireland quality ahead of Six Nations clash

RUGBY: England boss Eddie Jones says Ireland are “the most cohesive side in the world”, installing Andy Farrell’s men as favourites for tomorrow’s (Mar 12) Six Nations showdown at Twickenham.


Friday 11 March 2022, 01:30PM

Ireland are the ‘most cohesive side in the world,’ says Eddie Jones. Photo: AFP

Ireland are the ‘most cohesive side in the world,’ says Eddie Jones. Photo: AFP

Jones attempted to heap the pressure onto his opponents, suggesting that their more seamless preparation time helps them in the autumn and Six Nations Test windows.

But the Australian warned those advantages would disappear at the 2023 World Cup in France, with all teams having standardised access to their players in the build-up.

Ireland are second in the Six Nations table after two wins in three matches, three points behind unbeaten France. England are third, one point behind Farrell’s men.

“It’s an important week in the tournament,” Jones said on Monday (Mar 7). “There are three teams left in the tournament and we’re lucky enough to be one of those three.

“Ireland are favourites for the game. They’ve been in very good form in the autumn, they’re a very settled team, and very well coached by Andy Farrell.

“They are literally, and I say this without any hesitation, the most cohesive side in the world.

“The bulk of their team train together for the bulk of the year so they are very well-coordinated in their attack, they are very structured, they’re very sequenced in set plays. And they’re tough around the breakdown.”

Ireland’s provincial system helps the Test side, giving opportunities for players to shift between domestic and international camps whereas England’s club set-up is not so well-integrated.

But Jones, whose side were beaten by South Africa in the final of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, said next year’s tournament in France would be a great leveller.

“The three months before the World Cup is where every team becomes equal,” he said.

“We all have the same amount of time to practise, we all have the players the same amount of time. Up to now, teams have got their players for differing times, there’s different experiences.

“We can only have 25 players until Tuesday, other teams can have 42 until Thursday. So it’s all different. But once you get to the World Cup campaign start, it’s all equal.”

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Meanwhile, Lock Iain Henderson has returned to the Ireland squad ahead of tomorrow’s game after he was ruled out of their last match against Italy in Dublin when he tested positive for COVID-19.

But he played the full 80 minutes of Ulster’s United Rugby Championship (URC) victory over Cardiff last Friday and has been named in a 35-man group by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.

Uncapped Munster prop Jeremy Loughman has received his first squad call-up, but Leinster back Jordan Larmour misses out.

The Irish Rugby Football Union said Larmour would be sidelined for the remaining Six Nations games against England and Scotland after suffering a hip injury during Leinster’s URC win against Benetton last Saturday.

Jack Carty, Dave Heffernan, Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume and Nick Timoney all return to the squad after playing for their provinces.

Elsewhere, Scotland have called up Adam Hastings for their clash with perennial strugglers Italy in Rome tomorrow.

The Gloucester fly-half was a surprise omission from Gregor Townsend’s initial squad but has now been added to the group ahead of the fourth round of fixtures.

Uncapped Edinburgh lock Glen Young has also been included in the squad for the game at the Stadio Olimpico, along with 22-year-old Glasgow stand-off Ross Thompson.

Exeter lock Jonny Gray is back in the mix after injury forced him to miss the defeat at home to France last month.

Marshall Sykes, Nick Haining, Oli Kebble, Ollie Smith and Rufus McLean have all dropped out through injury.

Scotland, who beat England in their Six Nations opener, are fourth in the table after back-to-back defeats against Wales and France.

Wales host current leaders France in Cardiff this evening (3am Saturday, Phuket time).

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