SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Ollie Lawrence deserves a chance to shine against Ireland

England produced some of their best rugby against Ireland last year and I am expecting that confidence to kick in at Twickenham with a much-improved performance and an impressive win.

England were simply brilliant in Dublin last year, based on a Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade selection.

Once again, I like the look of this England side. Other than injuries — Anthony Watson is always my favoured full back — this is unambiguously the first-choice selection. No experiments, no messing around, no stupid names.

England face Ireland on Saturday hoping for a repeat of their performance in Dublin in 2019

England face Ireland on Saturday hoping for a repeat of their performance in Dublin in 2019

Ollie Lawrence should get his chance to prove himself at centre after a brief Italy cameo

Ollie Lawrence should get his chance to prove himself at centre after a brief Italy cameo 

Although you or I might not agree with every last selection, everybody now knows the score, so 10 out of 10 for Eddie Jones this week.

My biggest hope is that Ollie Lawrence finally gets a chance to shine in the centre, filling the big shoes of Tuilagi.

He came on for a couple of minutes against Italy and was a virtual spectator for much of the Georgia game. So we know virtually nothing of Lawrence as a Test prospect, but that should change.

Ireland pose a much bigger threat and there will be defensive and attacking duties aplenty for the Worcester man.

Manu Tuilagi is out injured and Eddie Jones will be hoping the Worcester man can fill his shoes

Manu Tuilagi is out injured and Eddie Jones will be hoping the Worcester man can fill his shoes

England need to come up with the correct midfield option to replace Tuilagi. It is in their interest to get Lawrence fully involved so they can assess his capabilities and see how the partnership with Slade develops.

I’m also pleased they haven’t gone back to the Ford-Farrell option at 10 and 12 following George Ford’s return to fitness. Going forward it should be an either/or selection. The big lesson from the last World Cup is that Ford is a must on the bench. He’s the man to bring on to really change the way England play if and when needed.

Sam Underhill and Tom Curry are back as wing forwards while Billy Vunipola starts at No 8. That is the batting order in the backrow and everybody must react accordingly.

Jack Willis did pretty well last week but I would have liked to see him with the best England players around him, not the random selection that played Georgia.

Maro Itoje is back in the England line-up and will be key in the second-row against Ireland

Maro Itoje is back in the England line-up and will be key in the second-row against Ireland  

Maro Itoje returns to the second row where he is the best lock in the world. Alongside him is Joe Launchbury, who is undoubtedly the second best lock in England!

Ditto the front row. I wanted to see Ellis Genge given another start but nobody can seriously argue against a trio of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler. So this could be fun.

The weather doesn’t look too bad so let’s see high-quality rugby to brighten our day. England have already won this game by getting their selection right which will always be the most valuable skill of any head coach at this level.

It’s good to see Eddie smelt the coffee this week!

Exciting Scots can edge French

Scotland are ticking a lot of boxes at present and I’m tipping them to claim a second win this year over France in what could be a cracker. 

I’m enjoying their all-court approach – forward power and discipline mixed with pacey, inventive backs. They also showed plenty of resolve in recent wins in Wales and Italy.

France are also very much on the up and, when they named a very experimental squad for this game, I was concerned because their improvement has been based on consistency of selection. 

Scotland are on the rise and can force a thriller against France, who are improving themselves

Scotland are on the rise and can force a thriller against France, who are improving themselves

The cancellation of the Fiji game means they have recalled a few more of the regulars they were planning to rest but can they change the mindset just as quickly?

This could be very entertaining. Both sides need the win to maintain momentum. 

Wales need kick-start against Georgia  

Wales need to shut out all the noise currently going on about the future of Welsh rugby and whether Wayne Pivac is the right coach or not and just get out there and produce a proper performance. 

They were poor against Scotland and Ireland, but I still see plenty of quality in their squad. They just need a moment or a piece of skill and a try to ignite them and they will be up and running.

Georgia now have now had two matches against Tier 1 opposition on the bounce under their belts and what I’m looking for now is evidence of lessons learned. 

Wales are in a rut but the quality in their squad could see a quick reversal in fortunes for them

Wales are in a rut but the quality in their squad could see a quick reversal in fortunes for them

More control of the game, better use of scrum-ball, a few more options in attack, not so many penalties conceded. 

They must make a Wales side lacking confidence sweat for every point.

Fiji victim of Covid crisis 

All rugby fans will be sympathising with Fiji right now after the cancellation of their next two Autumn Cup games following an outbreak of Covid positives in their squad over the last two weeks. 

Many of the players are now in self isolation and this comes on top of spending the best part of three weeks in a training bubble in Limoges.

It’s nobody’s fault. Back home in Fiji they are virtually Covid free and, having accepted the invitation to play in the Autumn Cup, those home-based players were parachuted into a country where there have been more than two million positive cases and thousands of deaths.

Just to rob salt into the wound though their cancelled matches are recorded as 28-0 defeats which will be particularly galling as they defeated France last time out and would surely have targeted Saturday’s game against Italy and next week’s against Scotland. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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