International hub: Farrell and Ford reunite for England

by RUGBY.com.au staff

The third week of World Cup friendlies is upon us and there are some mouthwatering match-ups.

Scotland kick off proceedings against France as they look to avenge their Paris embarrassment while England hosts Ireland in London.

SCHEDULE

Scotland vs France, Murrayfield, Saturday August 24, 1:10pm local, 11:10pm AEST

England vs Ireland, Twickenham, Saturday August 24, 3pm local, Sunday 12am AEST

SCOTLAND vs FRANCE

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend retained just one player, full-back Stuart Hogg, in the starting XV for Saturday's Test with France as the side bid to rebound from their 32-3 pasting by the French

last weekend.

He brings back France-based duo Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw, who will team up at half-back for the 32nd time, three shy of the national record of the latter's uncle Roy Laidlaw and stand-off John Rutherford.

Scrum-half Laidlaw -- who plays for Top 14 outfit Clermont -- will skipper the side with Stuart McInally, who captained them last Saturday, dropping out of the 23 entirely.

Townsend has also called up experienced wings Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour to the starting XV.

There is just the one new cap, former New Zealand Under 20 international Blade Thomson, who will be at No 8 alongside Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson.

Townsend said the poor performance against the French did not reflect the hard work his players had put in at training camp over the last two months.

"France are a very dangerous side if you give them space and quick ball to play, which is what we allowed to happen on too many occasions last week," said 46-year-old Townsend.

"Our focus all week has been to remedy this and also create much more from our attacking game.

"It was a stark reminder of how tough things can be at international level if our standards slip.

"We expect our players to show a much truer picture of themselves this Saturday.

"France have selected another strong side so it will be a great challenge for us to deliver a much-improved performance."

TEAMS

Scotland to take on France

Gordon Reid, George Turner, Willem Nel, Scott Cummings, Sam Skinner, Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson, Blade Thomson, Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Sean Maitland, Pete Horne, Chris Harris, Tommy Seymour, Stuart Hogg. Reserves:  Grant Stewart, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Blair Kinghorn

France to take on Scotland

TBC

ENGLAND vs IRELAND

Owen Farrell and George Ford will start a Test match together for the first time in over a year when England play Ireland in a World Cup warm-up match at Twickenham on Saturday.

Farrell returns to the starting XV -- he was a replacement in the 13-6 defeat by Wales last Saturday -- partnering Manu Tuilagi in the centres with Ford retaining his place at fly-half.

Ben Youngs comes in at scrumhalf -- Willi Heinz having started against the Welsh in both Tests -- with experienced prop Joe Marler getting his first start since coming out of international retirement.

 The last time Ford and Farrell started together was the second Test against South Africa in Bloemfontein last June, which England lost 23-12.

"This weekend we will be looking to gain more match fitness and test different sorts of game strategies," said Jones.

Jones, who has yet to feature his most contentious selection,  uncapped wing Ruaridh McConnochie who was injured for both the Wales games, said the players had been in fine fettle during the week.

"The players have come back in a very good physical and mental state and we have had a good preparation this week," said Jones.

"We purposefully made the week short looking ahead to the World Cup where this might happen beyond our control.

"It is the third of four games for us and come 8 September, when we get on the plane, we want to be ready to go. This is another step forward for us."

England have one more warm-up match after the Ireland game in Newcastle against Italy on September 6 prior to departure for Japan.

Once there England will begin their World Cup campaign against Tonga in Sapporo (September 22) before playing the United States in Kobe (September 26), 2015 semi-finalists Argentina in Tokyo (October 5) and round off their pool matches against old foes France in Yokohama (October 12).

Ross Byrne has the chance to book his place on the plane to Japan for the rugby World Cup as he starts at flyhalf for Ireland in their warm-up Test with England on Saturday.

The 24-year-old Leinster playmaker is competing with Jack Carty to be the third option to first choice Johnny Sexton with regular number two Joey Carbery battling to recover from an ankle injury.

Byrne, who will win his third cap, will be partnered at Twickenham by first choice scrum-half Conor Murray as coach Joe Schmidt selected a strong starting XV.

Veterans such as full-back Rob Kearney, flanker Peter O'Mahony and prop Cian Healy return to a much changed starting line-up to the one that beat Italy 29-10 in their first warm-up match earlier this month.

TEAMS

England to face Ireland

Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, George Ford, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes, Mark Wilson, Willi Heinz, Piers Francis, Jonathan Joseph

Ireland to face England

Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Jean Kleyn, Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne, Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, Jordan Larmour, Rob Kearney.  Reserves: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Tadhg Beirne, Luke McGrath, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway