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big decisions Mick Galwey picks his Ireland team to take on England at Twickenham


Healy will compete with Kilcoyne for a place in the front-row with Furlong

Healy will compete with Kilcoyne for a place in the front-row with Furlong

Healy will compete with Kilcoyne for a place in the front-row with Furlong

Well, here it comes, the game that makes or breaks our Six Nations season.

We’ll expect to beat Scotland in Dublin on Saturday week, so England at Twickenham next Saturday is the chance to record four wins in a season and set ourselves up for a shot at the Triple Crown against the Jocks.

In the year when we’ve France and England away, four wins is always an acceptable outcome to a Six Nations campaign.

But now Ireland have to come up with some of their very best rugby of the year to get it.

England will not want to lose to Ireland on their own patch.

By the time the team runs out on Saturday evening, Ireland’s players will long since know the result of Wales-France, to be played in Cardiff on Friday night.

If Wales can do Ireland a favour, then we are right back in the running, not just for a four-win campaign and the Triple Crown, but for the Six Nations title itself.

We were close, but no cigar, to the win in France. We played well for many minutes, but let victory elude us with a couple of silly mistakes.

So the pressure is on Ireland to secure a statement success. A statement that Irish rugby is in a good place as the 2023 World Cup looms. And that means beating the likes of France or England away.

Losing Andrew Porter for next weekend is a huge blow, of that there is no doubt. Playing these huge, away Test matches you want every top player there for the coach to pick from.

We had not got Johnny Sexton for Paris, now Andrew is out for London, and for a while longer it seems, which will worry Leinster who have big games coming up in April.

Either Dave Kilcoyne or Cian Healy will start instead of Andrew, with the other on the bench, but we are going to miss the class act that Porter has become in the No 1 shirt.

However, we’ve got to make the best of it and I still feel Ireland have enough about them to win the match in Twickenham on Saturday.

In this campaign, England were beaten by Scotland and might have been beaten by Wales, if the Dragons had woken up a bit sooner in the match.

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England are missing a number of key lads through injury for the whole tournament.

You get the sense from some of their coach Eddie Jones’ recent comments, that the list of injured absentees, including Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Elliot Daly, Jonny May and Luke Cowan-Dickie, has caused him to give up on this year’s Six Nations Championship.

Yes, every international coach has an eye on the World Cup in 18 months time.

But you don’t just blithely write off the here and now, as Jones did last week, with, “it’s all about the World Cup now.” Maybe Eddie is just trying to protect his job!

A Welsh win would surely increase the hunger and desire for a victory in this most famous of matches for Irish rugby. Success at Twickenham is always just that little bit sweeter.

Against Jones’ England you have to take them on up front and I expect Andy Farrell to go for a grizzled and powerful Irish pack to meet the likes of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes head on.

Where Italy was the game to chance your arm with selection last Sunday, this coming Saturday has to be about lads who have been there and worn the t-shirt with Ireland.

Peter O’Mahony may well keep his place at 6, with Caelan Doris at 8.

Note how the latter was taken off the pitch very quickly against Italy, once the win and bonus point were nailed down. He’s a key man for Farrell and for Ireland.

Ryan Baird did very well against the Italians, and he has a big future with Ireland.

However a place on the bench may be all he can hope for this time around, as the heft of either James Ryan or Iain Henderson will surely be needed in the second row.

In the backs, Hugo Keenan will return at full-back and a big call is whether Bundee Aki will come back to the side at centre instead of Robbie Henshaw.

The latter offers subtlety, but Aki’s power-running and big tackling are just what you need against this very physical England team.

And of course Johnny Sexton will be there at out-half if he’s good to go.

I’ve been championing Joey Carbery for a long time and he did very well in his two recent matches in the Ireland No 10 shirt.

But this is not a game in which you voluntarily leave out any of your front-liners - least of all your captain. Johnny has to play.

England looked at sixes and sevens when Wales tore into them in the last quarter.

What Ireland must do is get stuck in to the Red Rose right from the start, unsettle them, take them out of their forward-orientated game plan of running with the ball and looking for gaps in our defence.

In return, we must run the ball when we can, run that big England pack around the pitch.

There are tries in this Irish back-line for next Saturday – I’m sure of it.

It all needs to come together for Ireland and, if it does, we will be celebrating a famous victory next Saturday night.

MICK GALWEY’S team to play England: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson-Park; Dave Kilcoyne, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

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