Six Nations: Winning England make first changes

ENGLAND have made the first changes of their 2015 RBS Six Nations campaign after naming Alex Goode and Jack Nowell in their starting XV to face Ireland tomorrow.

Alex Goode will make his first Six Nations start for two years tomorrow. Picture: Getty

Goode slots in at full-back after Mike Brown was ruled out of the pivotal title showdown in Dublin earlier this week with the concussion he sustained during the 47-17 rout of Italy a fortnight ago.

Nowell replaces Jonny May on the left wing for his first cap since making his five previous Test appearances during last year’s Six Nations, ending a near year-long absence due to shoulder and knee injuries.

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May scored one of the finest tries seen at Twickenham against New Zealand in November, but he wasted a three-on-one overlap against Italy and his defence has long been a source of concern.

In the third and final adjustment to the match-day 23, tighthead prop Kieran Brookes is withdrawn from the bench after failing to recover from a hip flexor strain, giving Henry Thomas his first chance of the Championship.

“Alex is in good form for Saracens and has been training well over the last few weeks, as has Jack Nowell, who is also playing well for Exeter Chiefs,” head coach Stuart Lancaster said.

“Both have been pushing hard for selection and I’m sure they’ll seize their chance against a high-quality Ireland side.”

Losing Brown for a match that is sure to be decisive to the title outcome – England and Ireland are the only unbeaten teams – is a blow to the Six Nations favourites, who visit the Aviva Stadium without their most ferocious competitor. Goode won the last of his 16 caps against Wales 12 months ago, but his most recent start was in the 2013 Championship.

While lacking Brown’s tenacity and physical edge, Goode offers a more rounded playmaking option and frequently fills in at fly-half for Saracens.

Lancaster had the luxury of naming an unchanged 23 for the victories over Wales and Italy as England made a strong start to their pursuit of the Six Nations crown, but selects the same pack for a third successive match.

Meanwhile, Joe Schmidt has
acknowledged Ireland must adapt their approach to cope without “big-game player” Jamie Heaslip in tomorrow’s Grand Slam eliminator.

Ireland boss Schmidt hailed stand-in No 8 Jordi Murphy’s “workaholic” qualities, but conceded flankers Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien must help guide the six-cap 23-year-old through the pivotal Dublin encounter.

British and Irish Lions loose forward Heaslip could still miss the rest of Ireland’s Six Nations title defence after suffering three cracked vertebrae in his back in the 18-11 victory over France.

Leinster’s Barcelona-born back-rower Murphy is the sole change to Ireland’s starting line-up to face England at the Aviva Stadium, with Jack McGrath once again fending off the challenge of Cian Healy. “We will miss Jamie Heaslip’s experience to be honest; he’s very much a big-game player with big-game temperament,” Schmidt said. “That allows us to be a little bit more organised.

“So it’s a big challenge for Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien to help Jordi map his way around the pitch. Jordi Murphy’s very quiet. He doesn’t really say a lot, but he gets on with the job and with other people and he’s a workaholic around the pitch.”

British and Irish Lions prop Healy came off the bench for his first Test appearance in the Valentine’s Day triumph over France after tearing his hamstring in September.

Schmidt said Healy was not quite yet up to full match speed after his lengthy lay-off, but insisted Leinster’s McGrath has retained his starting place on merit.

“Sure, Jack has been the stand-out player at times,” Schmidt said, confirming the call at loosehead came down to performance level alone.

“We did have temptation in a couple of areas, but, when it comes to players who are performing in their slot, it’s pretty hard to go past them in terms of selection. But, that said, no-one owns a jersey.”


15 R Kearney

14 T Bowe

13 J Payne

12 R Henshaw

11 S Zebo

10 J Sexton

9 C Murray

1 J McGrath

2 R Best

3 M Ross

4 D Toner

5 P O’Connell (c)

6 P O’Mahony

7 S O’Brien

8 J Murphy


16 S Cronin

17 C Healy

18 M Moore

19 I Henderson

20 T O’Donnell

21 E Reddan

22 I Madigan

23 F Jones


15 A Goode

14 A Watson

13 J Joseph

12 L Burrell

11 J Nowell

10 G Ford

9 B Youngs

1 J Marler

2 D Hartley

3 D Cole

4 D Attwood

5 G Kruis

6 J Haskell

7 C Robshaw

8 B Vunipola


16 T Youngs

17 M Vunipola

18 H Thomas

19 N Easter

20 T Croft

21 R Wigglesworth

22 D Cipriani

23 B Twelvetrees