Preview: Ireland v England

Preview: Ireland v England

Dublin is ready for one hell of a party.

140 years since the first Home Nations was played, Ireland stand on the precipice of a first Grand Slam in their biggest city – and on St.Patrick’s weekend too.

Ireland have won three slams in their history, but they came in Belfast, Cardiff and London.

Never before have they sealed the deal in Dublin, and the thousands heading there – many via the Cheltenham Festival – are ready for an overdue celebration.

However, before the party can start, Ireland have a game to play and the fact it is England in town only adds to the occasion.

Wounded by last weekend’s heavy defeat to France, England are massive underdogs at the Aviva Stadium. But only a fool would underestimate the talent in their squad, and, with a point to prove and a record to set straight, they are a dangerous proposition.

These two sides have met in Grand Slam deciders before, and England’s win here 20 years ago still stings for those who remember it.

That was the last time Ireland arrived in Round 5 with a shot at winning the Grand Slam in Dublin, but England – chasing the Slam themselves – crushed those dreams with an emphatic victory.

However, unlike that day, England are not Ireland’s rival for the title this year.

France are the only team capable of snatching the trophy away from Andy Farrell and his men, but they need to beat Wales in Super Saturday’s middle game, ideally with a bonus point, to stand any chance.

Ireland will also have the advantage of knowing exactly what they need to do at kick-off. If France do pick up the maximum five points, Ireland must respond.

They will become champions if they win or draw with England, while even in defeat they can seal the title. Two losing bonus points against England would see them finish one ahead of France, while even one losing bonus point will do it, if they stay ahead of France on points difference.

Ireland will hope the calculators are not needed and the Grand Slam is secured. Then they can party long into the night.

Team News

Saturday could mark a special day for Johnny Sexton, who will hope to bring his Guinness Six Nations career to a close with the Grand Slam, Triple Crown and the Championship record points total.

Sexton is level on 557 points with Ronan O’Gara but for the first time this year, he will play alongside a scrum-half not named Conor Murray from the start.

Andy Farrell has made three changes to the team that beat Scotland, with Jamison Gibson-Park selected to start in the No.9 jersey.

Gibson-Park was initially picked to start against Wales in Round 1 but injury ruled him out and he made his first appearance of the campaign from the bench last week.

Farrell’s other two changes are injury-enforced, with Robbie Henshaw replacing Garry Ringrose at centre, while Ryan Baird is in for Iain Henderson at lock.

Rob Herring, Kieran Treadwell and Jimmy O’Brien come into the matchday 23.

Steve Borthwick has recalled captain Owen Farrell and centre Manu Tuilagi to the starting XV, as he makes four changes to the team that lost to France.

Farrell was dropped for the game against Les Bleus but comes in to replace Marcus Smith at fly-half, while Tuilagi makes his first Championship appearance of the season at inside centre in place of an injured Ollie Lawrence.

With Henry Slade at No.13, it is the same fly-half-centre combination that beat Ireland in Dublin in 2019.

Henry Arundell makes his first England start on the left wing and replaces Max Malins, while David Ribbans comes in for the injured Ollie Chessum at lock.

Ireland: 15. Hugo Keenan, 14. Mack Hansen, 13. Robbie Henshaw, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. James Lowe, 10. Johnny Sexton, 9. Jamison Gibson-Park, 1. Andrew Porter, 2. Dan Sheehan, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Ryan Baird, 5. James Ryan, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Caelan Doris

Replacements: 16. Rob Herring, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Tom O’Toole, 19. Kieran Treadwell, 20. Jack Conan, 21. Conor Murray, 22. Ross Byrne, 23. Jimmy O’Brien

England: 15. Freddie Steward, 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Henry Arundell, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Jack van Poortvliet, 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. David Ribbans, 6. Lewis Ludlam, 7. Jack Willis, 8. Alex Dombrandt.

Replacements: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Mako Vunipola, 18. Dan Cole, 19. Nick Isiekwe, 20. Ben Curry, 21. Alex Mitchell, 22. Marcus Smith, 23. Joe Marchant

Latest News