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Thursday 14 December 2017

Simon Zebo: Alex Goode is just as dangerous as Mike Brown

Ireland's Simon Zebo during an Ireland press conference
Ireland's Simon Zebo during an Ireland press conference

Alex Goode will spearhead England's counter-attack threat and ease the loss of Mike Brown for the pivotal RBS 6 Nations showdown with Ireland, according to Simon Zebo.

Munster wing Zebo has warned Ireland to guard against Goode's ability to join the line as an auxiliary playmaker.

Saracens full-back Goode will replace Brown in England's last line of defence, after the Harlequins flyer failed to recover from concussion suffered in 47-17 victory over Italy.

Ireland are fully expected to bombard England's re-jigged back three with an aerial assault in the Aviva Stadium Grand Slam eliminator, but Zebo remains wary of Goode's attacking qualities.

"We've played Saracens a lot in the past couple of years, and he has probably some of the best footwork I've ever seen attacking the line at pace and still being able to change direction," Zebo said of Goode.

"It's a very exciting back three for them, and we know how dangerous they are, so Alex Goode, his counter-attacking ability will probably lead the line for them.

"So we'll be doing well to keep him quiet.

"I suppose it's a big blow to lose Mike Brown in one way, but Alex Goode is a top-quality player if he comes in.

"We've seen his attacking ability and prowess at full-back at Heineken Cup-level consistently, so for him to come in, in our opinion as a back-three player, he doesn't take away anything from their threats out wide."

England boss Stuart Lancaster has dropped Jonny May as expected, after the Gloucester speedster botched a straightforward try-scoring opportunity against Italy.

Exeter's Jack Nowell is primed for his first Test action in a year after recovering from long-term knee trouble and regaining top club form.

Nowell's experience at full-back should bolster England's positional play in the back three, with Bath's Anthony Watson also as comfortable at 15 as on the wing.

Ireland's confident march to nine consecutive victories since their 13-10 defeat to England in last year's Six Nations has been built entirely around supreme tactical nous.

Half-backs Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton seize territory first, then seek to dictate the tempo: Nowell's inclusion is a clear bid to counter the Irish's kicking-game acumen.

Zebo believes England will not suffer for the loss of Brown, who was voted last year's Six Nations player of the tournament.

"I don't think it will weaken them, to be honest," Zebo said. "The two guys who are coming in are quality operators and have played a lot at the highest level as well.

"I don't think it will take away from their back three.

"The threats of pace, aerial ability and finishing are all still there, so we'll have to be on top of our game to nullify their attack."

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