England’s Rugby World Cup has been thrown into disarray after their defeat by Ireland
England’s Rugby World Cup campaign is now in shambles, some 21 days before their first game in France.
Steve Borthwick’s men can now face Argentina in Marseille on Saturday September 9 without captain Owen Farrell and talismanic No8 Billy Vunipola.
Vunipola is certain to miss England’s World Cup opener after receiving a red card in Ireland’s 29-10 win over Steve Borthwick’s men in Dublin.
No 8 Vunipola talisman will receive a ban next week for his challenge against Ireland’s Andrew Porter.
Boss Borthwick has put all his No8 eggs in Vunipola’s basket, with the 30-year-old selected as the only England specialist in the 33-man World Cup squad.
Ben Earl and Lewis Ludlam can fill in, but England have dropped Harlequins specialist Alex Dombrandt from their World Cup squad.
The length of Vunipola’s ban will determine whether Borthwick relies on the Sydney-born striker or chooses to replace the Saracens star.
Vunipola shouldered Porter in the face and saw his yellow card turned red by TV bunker man Ben Whitehouse.
Wales official Whitehouse told referee Paul Williams that Vunipola’s kick was “highly dangerous, without mitigation or envelope”.
A week after Farrell was sent off for another bunker challenge against Wales’ Thane Basham, England have yet again failed to clear their disciplinary record.
Skipper Farrell faces an appeal on Tuesday, where World Rugby will challenge the 31-year-old’s red card at the first hearing last week.
Four days ago, Farrell thought it was safe to start the World Cup.
Now, not only is Farrell sweating about his World Cup appearance again, but Vunipola is also freaking out.
Whitehouse’s statement that there was no mitigation will play a key role in Vunipola’s final disciplinary hearing.
Top barrister Richard Smith played first blind last week to convince the disciplinary panel that Farrell’s tackle on Basham could not have been avoided because Jamie George pushed the Wales flanker at the last second.
World Rugby believes no mitigation should be applied and this will form the basis of the England captain’s appeal hearing.
Whitehouse’s clear instructions to referee Williams at the Aviva Stadium this week that no leniency should be applied will now seal Vunipola’s provisional ban.
Apart from the obligatory disciplinary horror show, Ireland flexed every muscle of the world’s number one Test team.
Bunde Aki, Harry Ringrose, James Lowe, Mack Hansen and Keith Earls – celebrating his 100th cap – crossed paths with Andy Farrell’s quiet, laid-back men.
England finally showed some attacking form but still lacked penetration and cutting.
Substitute Kyle Sinclair slotted home the visitors’ only point in another tough outing for England.
England played more rugby in the first four minutes here than in the previous two matches.
Ford offered a half-butterfly form and invention, then scored a penalty to take an early 3-0 lead.
But at one point, two assists to be exact, the Irishman was under the goals with Aki.
England had no defensive response to Ireland’s various running lines, passing and trickery.
The home side’s opener was too easy, but after that a booming Ireland was brilliant.
Ford missed a regulation penalty as England clung to the flow without forcing Ireland to lie down.
England grabbed Ireland’s second point by increasing the number of errors for the hosts.
Elliot Daly missed a penalty and then Vunipola was fouled trying to recover James Lowe’s pass.
The crowd jumped on Vunipola’s back, and the big No. 8’s reaction, if harmless, was one of great disappointment.
Ireland attacked with gusto from the scrum, kicking the ball to the right and then back to the left.
When Hansen came off the wing to make a great play, Ringrose knew he had to pick it up and cover to score.
The classy center did all of the above with ease, almost floating into the line, leaving a swarm of defenders in white in his wake.
Ireland led 12-3 at the break and were quick to extend their lead after the break and Vunipola’s red card.
Lowe went on the wing after releasing Vunipola, before Hansen latched onto Byrne’s good long pass to score in the other corner.
Sinclair crossed for England’s consolation, only for substitute Earls to finish acrobatically from the left to give Ireland the last laugh.
Another day, another dismissal from England – another week of worrying about the upcoming World Cup.
Defense coach Kevin Sinfield waxed lyrical about England’s hard work in reducing the height of the tackle.
Despite the best of intentions, England must accept that these efforts have yet to bear fruit.
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