Click here for photos of the Irish squad’s training session on the main and back pitches at Lansdowne Road today.
Pictured above: Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan at today’s session, which was split between the main and back pitches at Lansdowne Road due to a weather-hit pitch at St. Gerard’s School in Bray. Reflecting on his team selection for Saturday’s clash with England, O’Sullivan felt he had “no reason” to change his side after “the best 80 minutes” they have played in the championship so far (against Scotland).
The Corkman added: “England will have to bounce back from Paris – they have only lost one game at Twickenham this season, and that was to New Zealand, so it’s not an easy place to get a result, no matter what way you dice it.”
Lock Malcolm O’Kelly, who will take his Irish record caps tally up to 80 against England on Saturday. The Leinster giant has played seven times against the English since making his Test debut in 1997. O’Kelly was born in Chelmsford, Essex and describes Ireland’s 2004 win over England at Twickenham as “the great moment” in his career. He played for London Irish during the 1997/98 season.
Ireland’s forwards get their teeth into a lineout maul on the back pitch at Lansdowne Road.
Hooker Jerry Flannery, undoubtedly Ireland’s find of the season, throws in to a lineout. Flannery was in excellent form last Saturday as all 21 of his throws found an Irish hand. However, coach O’Sullivan rates the English lineout highly too. O’Sullivan said: “I have looked at the English lineout since the start of season, and they are probably the most consistent lineout in the championship. They have a 90 per cent success rate on their own ball, and they have pilfered 3 per cent of almost every other team they have played against.”
Peter Stringer with ball in hand at training. The Munster scrum half has been one of Ireland’s most consistent performers in this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship. Stringer has played in 65 of Ireland’s last 70 Test matches. He almost made his Irish debut as a replacement in the 2000 clash between Ireland and England at Twickenham, but was held in reserve by then coach Warren Gatland.
Stringer’s half-back partner for province and country, Ronan O’Gara. Ireland’s first choice out-half is the current top scorer in the 2006 RBS 6 Nations with 63 points, and is six short of breaking through the 600-point barrier in Test rugby. O’Gara turned 29 last Tuesday and had his runners filled with hot chocolate to mark the occasion. Saturday will be his 60th cap for Ireland.
Lock Paul O’Connell takes a lineout ball on the main pitch at Lansdowne. The 32-times capped Limerick man made his return from a shoulder injury in last Saturday’s win over Scotland, lasting 66 minutes before being replaced.
Paul O’Connell at the head of the posse with Tommy Bowe, Simon Best and David Wallace as the players come off after training. Ireland will be hoping for another barnstorming display from the 26-year-old O’Connell at Twickenham. He was man of the match against Scotland despite it being his first Test match in four weeks.
**All photos by Donall Farmer of Inpho Photography**