World Cup winner Ben Kay thinks that the absence of England prop Dan Cole for Saturday’s Six Nations clash will swing the game in Ireland’s favour.
The RFU confirmed on Monday that the Leicester prop would miss the rest of the tournament with a bulging disc in his neck and would be replaced in the squad by Bath prop David Wilson.
Kay, who was part of the England team that won the Webb Ellis trophy in 2003, told RTÉ Sport: “I personally think it was very evenly matched going into this weekend.
“If you’d asked me a couple of days ago I would have said that the home factor might have out England down slightly as favourites because I think it’s such a big thing, particularly with the lift that playing in Dublin tends to give the Irish boys.
“I think the big thing for me now is with Dan Cole out for the rest of the championship – I think that’s a massive dent in England’s psychological preparation and I’d go for the Irish boys as probably slight favourites."
"I think that’s a massive dent in England’s psychological preparation"
Still fresh in Irish memories is the demolition job the England forwards did on the green scrum two years ago but Kay reckons that Cole’s absence, with 31-times capped Wilson (24 as a replacement) coming in, changes the dynamic.
He said: “[Wilson] hasn’t had a huge amount of starts for England anyway. Up until his injury he was in really fine form for his team, Bath, and a lot of people were talking about the quality of his performances but he hasn’t had the opportunities at international level.
“You then factor in that he’s just one game back and didn’t come back in and have the game of his life last week.
"I think the whole psychological dynamics of it, with Cole there, would have been England trying to gun for what they did a couple of years ago at Twickenham and really tear that Irish scrum apart.
“Now you’d almost be thinking from Davy Wilson’s perspective – he’ll be thinking, ‘I’ve got to get through this game, got to get through this 80 minutes’, not, ‘I’ve got to absolutely tear my opposite number apart at the scrum.’”
“The Six Nations is always about momentum and Ireland have the momentum. I think England, despite losing in France, the performance was one of their better ones and it will have taught them a lot of lessons."