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Lancaster's balanced approach impresses Schmidt

By Nick Purewal

Joe Schmidt believes England boast "a nice balance" to their World Cup midfield options, despite question marks still hanging over Stuart Lancaster's strongest inside-back division.

Ireland boss Schmidt hailed England counterpart Lancaster for balancing power and finesse across his selections at centre and fly-half as the two coaches prepare to lock horns at Twickenham today.

Fleet-footed Jonathan Joseph has vowed to forge a formidable centre partnership with blunt-force specialist Brad Barritt against Ireland, while Owen Farrell and George Ford are still battling it out for the starting fly-half berth.

Schmidt appeared nonplussed when quizzed on England's midfield conundrum, claiming that by including Sam Burgess and Exeter's Henry Slade Lancaster has rounded out his squad in style.

"Jonathan Joseph was saying in the week that they will be a really good combination because Barritt's the direct strongman and he'll use footwork and acceleration," said Schmidt.

"I think if you slotted Sam Burgess in there instead you could say that he's the direct powerhouse and that Joseph still has the footwork.

"Where Joseph's got the footwork I think Henry Slade's got class, his ability to distribute.

"He's still got a good change-up to carry, but he's got good kicking skills as well, so they can vary up their midfield as they need to.

"I'm just happy they are not in our pool."

England will launch their World Cup bid on home soil by taking on Fiji at Twickenham on Friday, September 18.

Ireland will open their Pool D account against Canada in Cardiff the following day, with Schmidt and Lancaster's men contesting the final warm-up battle this weekend.

Rugby League convert Burgess has been pitched in despite playing just half a season of union with Bath, with Exeter's fast-developing playmaker Slade also sneaking into the final England 31.

Schmidt has backed the English to threaten across the fast-approaching World Cup, as much thanks to their midfield blend as anything else.

"They've put together some really nice plays, particularly from set-piece," said Schmidt.

"Then you throw in a guy like Alex Goode who has got so many skills, where he put in the little cross-kick for Jonny May.

"So I really do think it's a nice balance for them.

"They've got enough guys who are ball-players and they've got enough guys who can get you over the gain-line.

"Sometimes if it's all ball-players and there's just a wall in front of you, you play away and go nowhere.

"So sometimes you just need someone who will win you a collision and put you back on the front foot.

"I think they've got a really good mix of that."

Elsewhere today Wales play host to Italy (5.00pm) while Scotland will face a touch test when they travel to take on France (8.00pm).

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