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Tuesday 14 August 2018

Schmidt looks to the power play of Hendy

Coach Schmidt looks for character to achieve third ever Grand Slam

Change: Joe Schmidt has opted for the power of Iain Henderson against England tomorrow
Change: Joe Schmidt has opted for the power of Iain Henderson against England tomorrow

The cat and mouse began early yesterday morning when England moved their team announcement from 9am to 1pm.

This was soon followed by Ireland's decision to move their official announcement from 1pm to 1.45 pm.

A coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

Anyway, it all contributes towards the creeping hype of what would be Ireland's third Grand Slam.

As expected, coach Joe Schmidt refused to be drawn into Eddie Jones' comments about "the scummy Irish" for which the Australian had already offered up a contrite apology,

The back-and-forth about the aesthetics of how Ireland play will have to wait for another day too. This one is all about the winning. First and last.

"I don't think we would be uninspired by a 3-0 victory because we know what's at stake," said Schmidt.

"And what's at stake is a fantastic opportunity, not just to achieve a Grand Slam, but to go a year unbeaten.

Dreamed

"We wouldn't have dreamed of that this time last year."

The road to Twickenham all started last March at The Aviva when Peter O'Mahony stepped in for Jamie Heaslip, who never played again, to stop England from capturing back-to-back Grand Slams and from setting a world-record for test matches unbeaten.

Maybe the choice of Iain Henderson over Devin Toner was made in deference to that day when Donnacha Ryan was still around the place.

"I suppose I reference the character that was shown this time a year ago," said Schmidt. "Those characters who demonstrated that are still heavily involved.

"We're missing some of them and the guys who've come in have demonstrated a similar level of commitment, of the ability to be accurate and stay tuned in during those real pressure moments that happen in these really big test matches."

There is what you do to prepare and there is what happens between the white rectangle which can sometimes come down to something as arbitrary as the shape of the ball.

"Even Alex Ferguson said 'you want to put all those good things together and then you just need an ounce of luck when it comes to those really big games,'" said Schmidt.

The coach has opted for the power of Henderson over the set-piece of Toner, indicating the commitment to dominate.

"I think you saw a bit of it in the autumn, when he ran over Eben Etzebeth," said Schmidt.

"That's the power that he does generate. I think he did really well in this equivalent match last year when he scored the try. It was the difference in the game really."

Thus, the terms of engagement have been set. It will be war.

England coach Jones has rowed back on his long-cherished hold on the twin distributors of George Ford and Owen Farrell, the former dropping to the bench.

Jones has turned to ex-Leinster centre Ben Te'o in what will be a battle of the gain line against Bundee Aki.

This is the one change that signals England's intent to come straight at the Irish with sustained ferocity.

Jonathan Joseph and Garry Ringrose will engage in a contest based more on quick feet and quick moving minds.

The return of Saracens second row George Kruis and Maro Itoje is supported by explosive tight-head Kyle Sinckler and number eight Sam Simmonds.

This has all the hallmarks of a knock 'em down, all-out war in which the last man standing will be an Australian or a New Zealander.

England: A Watson; J May, J Joseph, B Te'o, E Daly; E Farrell, R Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, D Hartley (capt), K Sinckler, G Kruis, M Itoje, C Robshaw, J Haskell, S Simmonds. Replacements: J George, J Marler, D Cole, J Launchbury, D Armand, D Care, G Ford, M Brown.

Ireland: R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong, J Ryan, I Henderson, P O'Mahony, D Leavy, CJ Stander. Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, A Porter, D Toner, J Murphy; K Marmion, J Carbery, J Larmour.

Verdict: Ireland.

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