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England’s pre-World Cup turmoil deepens in Dublin

By PA
Billy Vunipola is comforted by Ellis Genge - PA

Billy Vunipola was sent off as England’s stuttering World Cup preparations were thrown into further disarray by a costly 29-10 defeat to Ireland amid Owen Farrell’s ongoing disciplinary saga.

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The number eight is likely to miss the start of the tournament in France after his 53rd-minute yellow card for making contact with the head of Andrew Porter was upgraded to red.

Steve Borthwick’s men were comfortably dispatched in a disjointed Dublin affair, which influential captain Farrell sat out following the fallout of his dismissal against Wales last weekend.

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Vunipola’s premature departure compounded a meek display and he will now join Saracens team-mate Farrell in facing a disciplinary panel with England’s World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9 fast approaching.

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Keith Earls marked his 100th cap by claiming the fifth of Ireland’s tries, adding to scores from Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, James Lowe and Mack Hansen, as the hosts retained their place at the top of the world rankings courtesy of a 12th successive win.

Andy Farrell’s dominant side were far from their free-flowing best but still had too much for their depleted rivals, although the first-half departure of hooker Dan Sheehan is a concern.

Replacement prop Kyle Sinckler claimed a late try shortly before Earls stylishly celebrated his milestone appearance but it was little consolation for the visitors.

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England crossed the Irish Sea seeking the greatest win of the Borthwick era so far to ignite their World Cup build-up but they were in unconvincing form especially with the situation surrounding skipper Farrell dominating headlines.

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Replacement fly-half Ford slotted an early penalty before the away team were swiftly put on the back foot as a superb break from Peter O’Mahony allowed Aki to charge beyond Ben Youngs and touch down under the posts, leaving Ross Byrne with a simple conversion.

While England have endured a tumultuous time since finishing runners-up at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Six Nations champions Ireland have enjoyed an impressive period of progression masterminded by head coach Farrell.

The Englishman fielded the bulk of his star names for the first time since clinching the Grand Slam against Borthwick’s men in March, which perhaps explained frustrating levels of rustiness in a fragmented opening period littered with stoppages.

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Ford missed the chance to reduce England’s deficit with a second penalty before Ireland’s Sheehan hobbled off due to an apparent injury.

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There looked like being no further inroads on the scoreboard before the break until Hansen’s clever cross-field kick exposed the opposition’s defence, with Ringrose inadvertently propelled over the try-line by a combination of Elliot Daly and Freddie Steward.

England, who are expected to learn the fate of Farrell in midweek, offered very little from an attacking perspective in a fairly forgettable first half which they ended 12-3 behind.

Their evening quickly took a turn for the worse when Vunipola ploughed into Porter.

Referee Paul Williams initially deemed the sin-bin to be sufficient punishment but the England back-rower, whose trudge from the field coincided with Farrell flashing up the big screen to a chorus of boos, would not return.

Ireland wasted little time in capitalising on their numerical advantage as Lowe was afforded yards of space to catch Byrne’s pass and cross wide on the left, before Hansen added to their misery by diving over on the other flank.

England’s attempts to avoid a drubbing were helped by Sinckler bulldozing over.

But they were powerless to prevent Ireland registering a fourth consecutive win in this fixture, with veteran wing Earls raising the roof thanks to a spectacular diving finish on his landmark outing.

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Comments

11 Comments
M
Mark 307 days ago

Much of the debate surrounding the England team is conducted on a game by game basis, with many people seemingly unable to grasp the simple concept that England are mostly now a side of has beens and club journeymen.
Are players such as George, itoji, vunipola, lawes, youngs, tuilagi et al better players now than 4yrs ago?.
And the answer to that is patently not.
There will be no sudden massive change of fortunes for this side, because it simply lacks world class players.
It's incredibly simple.

k
keith 307 days ago

It’s quite easy to lay the blame on Borthwick but I personally have no doubt that blame falls fairly and squarely with the RFU. Eddie should have gone after the 2019 RWC. Admittedly our performances were not helped by Covid but in 2021 and 2022 Eddie was making so many changes, swapping players around, playing them out of position that it’s no wonder the team became disjointed. When was the last time we had a settled centre partnership or half backs for that matter. We were also wedded to the so called attack kicking game that failed miserably. In the run up to RWC Eddie said he had a plan but before the plan could be implemented in response to media and fan pressure he got the push. The RFU could have easily let Eddie’s contract run through but a early exit from the RWC would have been too humiliating for the big wigs and they were quite happy to spend millions paying off Eddie and the Tigers. Apart from being stuck with Eddie’s squad for the 6Ns, there was no time to scour the world for a top class coaching team so we were stuck with going for the Tigers lot en masse and Tigerball. They may be ok at club level but as internationals they do not pass muster. The RFU have a get out as well. Do vaguely well and they pat themselves on the back. Fail and they turn round and say we didn’t have time. Win win but bloody pathetic if you ask me.

a
abso 308 days ago

Ireland weren't great but still managed to win well without hitting third gear. A lot of rust which will be removed. England were very poor, rudderless, devoid of ideas other than bombs all night long. And then another stupid tackle. It's beyond a joke a this stage. I do wish they'd stop that childish clapping and whooo hahaaing when the y win the smallest contest and then get their arse's handed to them

A
Ant77 308 days ago

Are England as bad as they're making out? The Wallabies and England haven't yet had the miracle change in form that they hoped for from sacking their coaches earlier this year. Maybe there's surprises coming this RWC?

m
mitch 308 days ago

Ordinary clunky performance from both teams. Both will need to be a lot better than that.

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