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Six Nations 2016 England v Ireland: Paul Gustard ready for giant task

By Duncan Bech

Published 27/02/2016

Team talk: Paul Gustard makes case for England's defence
Team talk: Paul Gustard makes case for England's defence

Paul Gustard has sounded a note of defiance on the looming midfield mismatch between England and Ireland by declaring "David didn't have a problem with Goliath".

The reigning RBS 6 Nations champions have selected the biggest centre partnership in their history in the form of Robbie Henshaw and Stuart McCloskey, who weigh a combined total of 33 stones.

England are braced for the giant Irish duo to come marauding down the fly-half channel of George Ford - the smallest player on the pitch - while outside Ford stand the relatively lightweight Owen Farrell and Jonathan Joseph.

A defiant Gustard expects his midfield to face down the onslaught in the Six Nations title showdown at Twickenham.

"David didn't have a problem with Goliath did he?" England's defence coach said. "George and Owen have defended very well. And obviously we have an openside who has been very physical in James Haskell and he's been playing very well.

"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."

England head coach Eddie Jones has been disparaging of Ireland's playing style under Joe Schmidt, criticising the over-reliance on the boot which proved the undoing of Red Rose Grand Slam ambitions in Dublin last year.

"They kick 70% of their ball away. If they want to do that, good luck to them," Jones said.

"It has worked for them. It is not the way I think you should play rugby but it has been successful for them, so good luck."

Statistics show that Ireland have actually kicked 23 and 24 per cent of ball in the first two rounds of the Championship and Gustard knows England must be prepared for all eventualities.

"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."

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