Six Nations

England coach takes heart from David and Goliath

2016-02-27 10:24
Robbie Henshaw (AFP)

London - England defence coach Paul Gustard has backed his slender inside backs to cope with a giant Ireland centre pairing at Twickenham on Saturday by saying "David didn't have a problem with Goliath".

Defending Six Nations champions Ireland have selected Robbie Henshaw and the uncapped Stuart McCloskey, who between them weigh a hefty 33 stone (462 pounds, 210 kilogrammes) in midfield.

That suggests Ireland will go hard at the flyhalf channel patrolled by the diminutive George Ford, who will have a relatively unimposing centre pairing of Owen Farrell and Jonathan Joseph outside him.

But Gustard said size alone would not be the determining factor, saying: "David didn't have a problem with Goliath did he?

"George and Owen have defended very well together...Joseph has one of the highest tackle success rates going, so defensively we have been strong.

"This is the team we've picked because we believe it's the team that will get the result we want," he added with England looking to make it three wins out of three under new head coach Eddie Jones after opening the Six Nations with away victories over both Scotland and Italy.

This week the Australian proclaimed Ireland were overly-reliant on the kicking game favoured by coach Joe Schmidt, adding the New Zealander's approach was "not the way I think you should play rugby but it has been successful for them, so good luck".

But Gustard said England had to be prepared for the Irish to vary their tactics, adding it would be wrong to label their centre pairing as midfield battering rams.

"We can't control what they will do with their attack. It would be easy to pigeonhole McCloskey and Henshaw as a certain type of player," Gustard said.

"All I can do is prepare a team in a framework and system that I believe is applicable and I think we've done that this week," added Gustard, with England yet to concede a try since his appointment after they held Scotland and Italy to three penalty goals apiece.

"It's up to Ireland how they want to attack, and it's up to me to put something in place that might surprise them. Or it's up to me to do the same as I did in the last two weeks."

Read more on:    ireland  |  england  |  six nations  |  rugby
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