Toner replaces Henderson for Twickenham clash

By Sports Desk February 21, 2020

Devin Toner has been promoted to the Ireland team to play England in the Six Nations on Sunday after Iain Henderson was ruled out.

Coach Andy Farrell had initially named an unchanged team for the crunch Twickenham clash, with Ireland joint-top alongside France after winning their beating Scotland and defending champions Wales.

However, the continuity has been disrupted, as family reasons mean Henderson will be unavailable.

Towering lock Toner, who was surprisingly left out of Ireland's Rugby World Cup squad under previous boss Joe Schmidt, comes into the side for his 70th cap.

The change sees Ultan Dillane take Toner's spot among the replacements.

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    Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow came to England's rescue after Sri Lanka again tortured the tourists' openers with spin, leaving the second Test well poised in Galle.

    Sri Lanka advanced from their overnight 229-4 to 381 all out, with James Anderson snagging 6-40, before Lasith Embuldeniya reduced England to 5-2 in their first innings.

    They recovered to reach the close on 98-2, with captain Root (67 not out) and ally Bairstow (24no) showing cool-headed resilience, although the latter survived a precarious lbw call just before the close.

    Root, in his 99th Test, went beyond fellow Yorkshire great Geoff Boycott's career haul of 8,114 runs at this level during his unflappable innings, going sixth on England's all-time list.

    By contrast to the third-wicket pair, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley have found left-arm spinner Embuldeniya almost unplayable in this series.

    The 24-year-old removed both openers for single-figure scores in each innings of the first Test and on this occasion he prised out Sibley for a duck and Crawley for just five.

    Sibley was back on his stumps, floundering, when Embuldeniya breached his defences to get the lbw verdict, and Crawley was prised out by a delicious delivery that caught the edge and angled into the hands of Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip.

    It means Sibley has made just six runs in three innings, Crawley faring little better with only 22 so far on this tour.

    Fortunately for England, the Yorkshire pair of Root and Bairstow brought their experience to bear and found a way to exert control, pushing and prodding but mostly sweeping and reverse-sweeping their way to stability.

    Anderson had earlier caught the eye once again, the 38-year-old producing figures that statistically rank as the fourth best of his Test career.

    Already armed with three wickets from day one, Anderson made a swift impact in the morning by having century maker Angelo Mathews caught by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler for 110 in the second over of the day.

    Niroshan Dickwella weighed in with 92 before falling to Anderson as he and Dilruwan Perera (67) put Sri Lanka in a sturdy position.

     

    England caught in a spin

    While Anderson was going through his majestic repertoire, Jack Leach and Dom Bess toiled for a combined 0-195 from 64 overs.

    They were made to look limited by Sri Lanka's batsmen, who handled the England spin pair far more adeptly than during the first Test, when together they snagged 14 wickets.

    This time there was no penetration, but Sri Lanka's premier spinner Embuldeniya immediately found zip, accuracy and effective turn, humiliating England's top two batsmen once again.

    Crawley made 267 against Pakistan at Southampton last August, and he has one innings left in Galle to show his true quality.

    Kevin Pietersen was moved to post to Twitter a letter he once received from Rahul Dravid on how to play spin, urging England management to pass the guidance to the openers.

    Remarkable Root

    England's skipper made a double century in the first Test against Sri Lanka, and again he soon got on top of the home side's attack.

    He struck seven boundaries in reaching his fifty, never looking in trouble.

    Sri Lanka appealed for an lbw when Root offered no shot to a turning ball from Dilruwan Perera, but the ball started out so wide that it was always missing by a long way.

    England will want more of the same from Root on Sunday, and should that be forthcoming this could turn into quite some match.

    Target: Bairstow

    Sri Lanka will want to break up the established partnership as early as possible on day three, with Bairstow looking the more vulnerable batsman.

    If Embuldeniya finds his choice line early in the day, he will fancy removing the man who England have surprisingly chosen to rest for their upcoming series with India.

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    Wasps back Paolo Odogwu and Bristol scrum-half Harry Randall have won their first England call-ups for the Six Nations.

    Bath prop Beno Obano is the third uncapped player to be named by Eddie Jones in the 28-man squad.

    Courtney Lawes returns from injury, while Mako Vunipola, who last played in the Autumn Nations Cup final win over France, will join the squad for rehabilitation but be unavailable for selection.

    Wasps flanker Jack Willis and Bath's Jonathan Joseph only make the 12-man shadow squad, while Kyle Sinckler, who is banned for the opening game against Scotland on February 6, is not in either group.

    Owen Farrell will retain his position as captain.

    The squad will meet up at St. George's Park on January 27, with coach Jones, who is isolating after assistant Matt Proudfoot tested positive for coronavirus, set to arrive a day later.

    "This has been a really tough squad to pick and I know there are a lot of disappointed players who haven't been selected," said Jones.

    "We're really excited by the players we have got, it's a very vibrant squad and are looking forward to getting started next week.

    "We're very grateful to the Premiership Rugby, the clubs and RPA [Rugby Players Association] for allowing us to have 28 players throughout the tournament, we're very happy with the number and it's testament to the growing relationships between all parties.

    "Ultimately our goal is to win the Six Nations and to do that we'll need to work hard and prepare well each day and take it as it comes."

    England squad:

    Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Beno Obano, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Harry Williams, Mark Wilson.

    Backs: Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Ollie Lawrence, Max Malins, Jonny May, Paolo Odogwu, Harry Randall, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

    Shadow squad: Charlie Atkinson, Ali Crossdale, Tom Dunn, Charlie Ewels, George Furbank, Joe Heyes, Jonathan Joseph, Joe Marchant, George Martin, Alex Mitchell, Jacob Umaga, Jack Willis.

  • Mathews steadies Sri Lanka with chanceless century Mathews steadies Sri Lanka with chanceless century

    Angelo Mathews lifted Sri Lanka out of trouble with a superb century on day one of the second Test against England.

    A collapse to 135 all out in their first innings was the main cause of Sri Lanka's defeat in last week's first game of the two-match rubber and they found themselves in early strife once more in Galle.

    James Anderson (3-24) returned to lead the England attack and removed Kusal Perera and Oshada Fernando, the latter for nought, to leave the hosts 7-2.

    But Mathews (107 not out) made the most of favourable batting conditions to lay the foundations for an imposing total, finding willing allies in Lahiru Thirimanne (43) and captain Dinesh Chandimal (52) and lead a recovery to 229-4 at stumps.

    England's attack toiled hard after Joe Root lost the toss but they caused problems early on, with Sam Curran having a huge lbw shout against Kusal in the second over before Anderson added to his 600 Test wickets.

    Recalled in place of long-time new ball partner Stuart Broad as England juggled their seam options with an eye on their forthcoming tour of India, Anderson persuaded Kusal into a ludicrously expansive hack that he edged to Root at slip.

    Oshada was recalled to the Sri Lanka side after four ducks in five innings for Kusal Mendis, only to suffer the same fate as he edged a lifting delivery onto his stumps.

    Thirimanne scored a century in the first Test, although his fine form was ultimately insufficient to repel his nemesis Anderson, who moved a ball beautifully away to encourage an edge behind and dismiss the opener for an eighth time in Tests.

    Sri Lanka were 76-3 shortly after lunch at that stage. Mathews' alliance with Chandimal was certainly timely and they were able to milk England spin due Jack Leach and Dom Bess with minimal risk.

    Paceman Mark Wood was the only bowler to offer sustained discomfort to each, both mentally and physically as he frequently touched 90 mph.

    The over after Anderson fumbled a run-out chance at mid-on, Wood had his reward - pinning Chandimal with an in-swinger the batsman's review showed was thundering into leg stump.

    Unperturbed by the end of that 117-run stand, Mathews brought up an 11th Test ton with a single off Leach and will resume alongside Niroshan Dickwella (19 not out) in the hope of kicking on to something even more substantial.

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