James Ryan (centre) will captain Ireland against England

Credit: AFP

Mako Vunipola, the England prop, has billed new Ireland captain James Ryan as one of the best second rows in the world ahead of Ireland’s visit to Twickenham this weekend.

Vunipola has crossed paths with the Leinster and Ireland lock numerous times in recent years playing for Saracens and England, with Ryan, 24, enjoying a meteoric rise to the top of the game.

"I’m definitely not surprised [that he’s been named captain]. As a player he has shown that he is one of the leading second rows, not only in Europe but in world rugby, the way he plays and puts himself on the front line," Vunipola said. "Just from watching I think he is going to lead by example. He’s been a key player for them for many years now.

"He is a massive influence for them in terms of how he gets his hands on the ball, his involvements around the park, his tackles, numbers I cannot really reel off. He is always involved in the big moments for them and it will be no different this weekend I imagine."

Ireland may have not only an inexperienced captain but a raw Test fly-half too on Saturday if Billy Burns wins his second cap. Burns, born in Bath, qualifies for Ireland through his grandfather, and could step into the No 10 role with regular Ireland captain Johnny Sexton missing through injury. According to Sam Underhill, who broke through at Gloucester around the time Burns was also on the Kingsholm books, the opportunity presented to Burns makes the Ulster fly-half a dangerous prospect.

“Yes [they are big boots to fill], but it’s also a big opportunity. I think it’d be a disservice to Bill to say it’d diminish their threat in any way. You have a guy who is desperate to prove he can fill those boots – that’s just as, if not more, of a threat than a regular starter," Underhill noted.

”I can’t really say I knew Billy too much when I was at Gloucester. He’s always been a talented player. It’s always good to see guys do well. The move was obviously a good one for him. He’s come on leaps and bounds. He’s very good ball in hand. He’ll pose a slightly different threat – you always have to be alive to that stuff and be able to adapt."

Underhill looks set to return to the England starting XV after being rested against Georgia, following the omission of Jack Willis from the 25-man England squad preparing to face Ireland.

Autumn Nations Cup: England 25-man squad to face Ireland