England forced into reshuffle with Ben Morgan a doubt for Ireland Six Nations clash

Stuart Lancaster set to put Wood in at No 8 with Haskell filling the gap at blind side

The rugby gods seem determined to have their share of fun with England ahead of this weekend's hotly anticipated set-to with Ireland in Dublin, giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Stuart Lancaster, the red-rose coach, believes Manu Tuilagi will be fit to resume in midfield – the Leicester centre's confrontation with the great Brian O'Driscoll should be quite something – but is not holding his breath for good news on the Ben Morgan front.

Morgan, highly impressive at No 8 against Scotland before hobbling off with an ankle injury shortly after the interval, was still wearing a protective boot when the squad reconvened at the team base in Surrey yesterday afternoon. "We don't know for sure about Ben's prospects, but the early prognosis suggests he will struggle to be fit for Ireland," said Lancaster, who called in the fast-developing Saracens flanker Will Fraser to make up the numbers in training.

Fraser will return to his club tonight, but there is a possibility that another uncapped back-rower, the 20-year-old newcomer Billy Vunipola, will force his way on to the bench. Lancaster seems committed to running the Northampton flanker Tom Wood at No 8 in Morgan's absence, with James Haskell of Wasps filling the hole on the blind side of the scrum. This would leave a vacancy among the replacements, and while Thomas Waldrom of Leicester has recent Test experience, things may not work out as expected.

Lancaster went out of his way yesterday to talk up Vunipola, a club-mate of Haskell's at Wasps and the brother of the Saracens loose-head prop Mako Vunipola, who is fast establishing himself in England's match-day squad, even though he has yet to start an international fixture. "Billy has had an outstanding season," the coach said. "He's one of the top ball-carriers in the Premiership and when I was looking at the stats, I noticed he has beaten more defenders than any other player, which is quite something for a back-rower."

Vunipola, born in Australia to a Tongan family but resident in Britain from childhood, has been suffering from ankle problems and was having a fitness test just as Lancaster was discussing his qualities. Called into the senior squad last month as cover for the absent Leicester forward Tom Croft – the coach saw it as an opportunity to give him a taste of Test preparation – he has done precious little in training. This was of no concern to Lancaster, though. "He's been in all the team meetings and he's up to speed with what we're doing," he said. "Billy is in contention."

As the back-room staff work their way through the selection options – either Billy Twelvetrees or Brad Barritt will make way for the returning Tuilagi, with the latter a reluctant favourite, and there are further calls to be made at scrum-half and hooker – two other matters are high on the agenda. One is discipline, always an issue in the molten heat of an Ireland-England contest at Lansdowne Road; the other is the threat posed by the home side's uniquely effective "choke tackle" technique.

"We'll be playing away from home after five games at Twickenham and it will be different in a lot of ways," Lancaster said. "We'll have to be right emotionally: we'll need to play on the edge, but with composure. This is where last summer's trip to South Africa can count for us. You can prepare as much as you like, but when you go through the kinds of things we experienced against the Springboks in Johannesburg back in June, it makes you stronger.

"We'll also be working hard on addressing the choke tackle," – the Irish tactic of holding opponents off the ground, rather than taking them to the floor. "If we get our bodies in the wrong position going into contact and meet the wrong guys, it'll be turnover ball." And, he might have added, the Irish live for turnovers.

Suggested Topics
Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week