Maro Itoje was at his physical best as England hammered Ireland 57-15 in a World Cup warm-up at Twickenham on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
England bounced back from their 13-6 loss to Wales in Cardiff last weekend in emphatic style as they simply overpowered the Irish, with Itoje and Billy Vunipola at the heart of the performance.
The 24-year-old Itoje looks to be finding form at exactly the right time as he was his best mix of physicality and niggle, making life a nightmare for the Irish defence. There were also solid performances from the 10-12 combo of George Ford and Owen Farrell, while the back three of Elliot Daly, Jonny May and Joe Cokanasiga were a constant threat on the counter-attack.
Ireland, meanwhile, will have a few concerns, especially as their breakdown and lineout in particular malfunctioned.
The game got off to a fast start, with Ireland getting the first try after a Farrell penalty when Jordan Larmour latched on to a fortuitous bounce of the ball. However, the first half was all England from there as Joe Cokanasiga then went over for his fourth Test try when a set move off a maul sucked in the Irish defence.
While England continued to threaten, Ireland regained the lead through a penalty from Byrne, but good hands helped England strike again, this time through Elliot Daly. England finished the half strongly as they won a 5m scrum in Ireland territory and capitalised as Vunipola worked the ball to Manu Tuilagi to score and give the hosts a commanding 22-10 lead at the break.
Things did not get better for the Irish in the second half, as another lost lineout was punished with Itoje breaking the line and striding away for a try. Itoje’s second-row partner, George Kruis, then went over from close range before Sam Underhill and Tom Curry combined for a try as the score started to turn into a rout.
Cokanasiga then showed his pace as another well-worked move off a set piece freed the wing to sprint through the defence for his brace to bring up the half-century.
The two sides traded tries in the final 10 minutes as Bundee Aki did very well to finish in the corner for Ireland, but another lineout malfunction allowed Luke Cowan-Dickie to add the eighth try for England.
England – Tries: Joe Cokanasiga (2), Elliot Daly, Manu Tuilagi, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Tom Curry, Luke Cowan-Dickie. Conversions: Owen Farrell (5), George Ford. Penalty: Farrell.
Ireland – Try: Jordan Larmour, Bundee Aki. Conversion: Ross Byrne. Penalty: Byrne.
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Joe Marchant.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Gary Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Connor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Jean Kleyn, 4 Ian Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Tadhg Beirne, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Andrew Conway.
Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images