England ready for aerial bombardment as Jones considers recalling Brown

EARLIER IN THE week, the official England Rugby account posted a video on Twitter showing one of Eddie Jones’ backroom staff waving a swimming pool ‘foam noodle’ at a number of back three players as they fielded high balls in training. 

Behind closed doors, Jones will have been hatching a plan to contain Ireland’s aerial threat at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening, as the sunny and serene surroundings of their luxury resort in the Algarve could not be any further from the red-hot atmosphere which awaits in Dublin.

Borthwick and Jones. Source: Andrew Matthews

And Steve Borthwick, the England forwards coach, insists the visitors will be fully prepared to deal with the onslaught — both in the air and on the ground — coming their way on the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

“The high ball contest is going to be a major aspect of the game,” former second row Borthwick said.

“Ireland are an extremely well drilled and well-coached team. They’re very clear about how they want to play and are a team packed full of different threats.”

While the loss of Ben Te’o to injury has paved the way for Manu Tuilagi’s return in midfield, one of the main selection issues facing Jones ahead of tomorrow’s team announcement is at fullback.

Mike Brown, although dropped last November, would provide the strongest option to deal with any Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray bombs in the 15 jersey, while Elliot Daly has started England’s last seven Tests.

Harlequins fullback Brown is back in contention this weekend, and Borthwick praised him for the way he has rebounded from the disappointment of being left out in November.

“You’ve seen Mike’s response to being left out in how he’s been playing for Harlequins,” he continued.

“The stats have gone up for aerial competition over the last period of time. There is an increase in the number of aerial contests, in other words when the ball is kicked to compete.

“It’s an area that all of our back three players are working hard to upskill because it’s only going to get more competitive as teams get better at it.

“It’s also a team skill because you have to get around the catcher to help him. Catching everything clean is nigh on impossible.”

Join us to preview the Six Nations with Simon Zebo, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Thursday @7pm in Liberty Hall Theatre Dublin.

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