Ireland The Warmest of Favourites
23rd February 2007 By Munster Rugby
Ladbrokes have Ireland at five to two on (2/5) to beat England and even at nine to four (9/4) England are attracting very little of punter’s money ahead of the clash at Croke Park.
And had Johnny Wilkinson been ruled out of the Croke Park game then we could have expected those same bookies to make Ireland even longer odds on to get their Championship ambitions back on track. Wilkinson was given the all clear this evening amid rumours earlier that a hamstring problem might rule him out.
Not indeed that Irish coach Eddie O’Sullivan was being taken in “England are playing silly buggers at the moment,” he said, “I’d be amazed if he doesn’t play on Saturday. I don’t believe in doing all that kind of stuff, it is all nonsense.”
The loss of Jason Robinson is a serious setback and Brian Ashton’s selection of Harlequins wing David Strettle – ahead of the likes of Ben Cohen and Mark Cueto – in normal circumstances would be considered a massive gamble . In this scenario it’s a huge call and one that could blow up in Ashton’s face.
Last year, Strettle was playing for National League One side Rotherham and this season, his first in the Premiership, has seen the 23 year-old score nine tries in fourteen outings. But nothing Strettle has experienced so far could prepare him for what lies ahead on Saturday.
Ireland: Girvan Dempsey, Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll (captain), Gordon D’Arcy, Denis Hickie, Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Rory Best, John Hayes; Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy. Simon Easterby
Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Simon Best, 18 Neil Best, 19 Mick O’Driscoll, 20 Isaac Boss/ Eoin Reddan, 21 Paddy Wallace, 22 Andrew Trimble.
England: Olly Morgan; Josh Lewsey, Mike Tindall, Andy Farrell, David Strettle; Jonny Wilkinson, Harry Ellis,; Perry Freshwater, George Chuter, Phil Vickery (captain); Louis Deacon, Danny Grewcock; Joe Worsley, Magnus Lund, Martin Corry.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Julian White, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Tom Rees, 20 Shaun Perry, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Mat Tait
Referee: Joël Jutge (France)
Touch judges: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales), Christophe Berdos (France)
Television match official: Romain Poite (France)