Ireland v England: Six Nations – live | Six Nations 20235 min read
20 mins. The home side look neat and tidy in attack, but not exactly threatening, mainly due to England getting up in their grill and ruining their momentum. The ball goes to ground and is hacked behind Keenan, who pulls a kick horribly into touch in his own 22.
Keenan is usually furiously solid and classy; if his basics arecracking then that is terrible portent for Ireland.
PENALTY! Ireland 3 – 6 England (Johnny Sexton)
18 mins. Ireland’s next possession has Sinckler infringing at the breakdown, so Sexton tees it up and slots it to get his side on the board and also surpass Ronan O’Gara to become the highest points scorer in Six Nations history.
17 mins. England make a mess of a short Sexton restart and this allows Ireland to run a pattern to free Keenan on an angle in midfield, but a pincer movement from Steward and Van Poortvliet stops him in backfield. The Irish attack tries to capitalise on the territory, but the early occasional imprecision from the home team creeps in once more and the attack brakes down.
PENALTY! Ireland 0 – 6 England (Owen Farrell)
14 mins. Andrew Porter hits Sinckler early in the lineout, giving a penalty to England and Farrell wastes no time in doubling his side’s lead with the boot.
11 mins. Ireland are direct from the lineout, with Van Der Flier almost all the way through to the line after he finds a gap. He is stopped by Steward and a few phases later the ball spills, but George is penalised for crawling on the floor with the ball he gathered.
Sexton quick taps and goes for the line, but he’s held up by Dombrandt and England can clear the ball with a drop-out.
9 mins. A period of kicking from the backfield comes to an end as Arundell has a run with it and is clamped on by Porter. The England winger doesn’t release it and Sexton sets up a lineout on the England 22.
PENALTY! Ireland 0 – 3 England (Owen Farrell)
7 mins. Double figures of phases from England works them up into the Irish 22, and already the visitors are unrecognisable from the side that was tonked last week. They put some pressure on the Irish defence with their recycling, and the home defence is offside.
Farrell calls for the tee and puts his team in front. A solid, settling few minutes from England.
4 mins. Ireland have most of the ball early on, working their usual organised phases until Willis nabs the ball at the breakdown. Nothing comes of the turnover possession, though, as a Itoje is subsequently too eager at the breakdown and is pinged for offside.
2 mins. Solid kick-off exit from Ireland leads to a few kicks back and forth before Gibson-Park is taken out in the air and Sexton booms the ball into touch in England territory.
Owen Farrell kicks the main event into life.
“Ireland’s Call” is absolutely deafening from the crowd, and we’re minutes away from kick-off…
Grand Slam number four for Ireland, their first since 2009, awaits them in the next couple of hours.
Standing in their way is an England team that absolutely nobody fancies, but Owen Farrell and his side won’t care about that, this is a one-off test match to put down a marker for the rest of the year.
The teams have made their way onto the field in a lovely Dublin evening. A bit breezy, perhaps, but other than that it looks perfect out there.
Pre match random reading
Joe Biden is all over Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes, read more about it here
Can anything prevent an Ireland Grand Slam? Give me your thoughts on that and much beside on the email or tweet @bloodandmud
Andy Farrell has made three changes driven by a mix of injury or preference. Robbie Henshaw returns to the centre, replacing the injured Garry Ringrose; while Jamison Gibson-Park and Ryan Baird are in at scrum half and lock respectively.
Return of the Manu is on for England, as well as exciting winger Henry Arundell getting a start and Owen Farrell back in the 10 shirt to conduct matters. In the forwards, Dave Ribbans is given a starting berth alongside Itoje in the second row.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Ryan Baird, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien.
England: Freddie Steward; Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Arundell; Owen Farrell (captain), Jack van Poortvliet; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, David Ribbans, Lewis Ludlam, Jack Willis, Alex Dombrandt.
Replacements: Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, Joe Marchant
When asked about Ireland winning a Grand Slam, St Patrick apparently replied, “I love owt like that, me”.
On this his feast weekend, he won’t be the only one experiencing that overwhelming emotion if his patron nation bring home the biggest of cups to put the top hat on an incredible twelve months.
All form, results and evidence point to this being the case in a few hours, but England and Steve Borthwick will not fancy being the lambs to be slaughtered for the celebration stew. But, can the visitors do anything to avoid what many are predicting to be a procession for Andy Farrell’s impressive team?
Borthwick and co would do well to look back to 2019, when a largely unfancied team rocked up to the Aviva Stadium and blew the doors off from the start to claim a stunning victory. Key that day were strong performances from Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade, who are reunited in midfield this afternoon. Tuilagi is not the player he was, both in terms of size or form, but like many England coaches before him Borthwick has returned to the big centre on the promise that a game breaking performance like 2019 is still in there somewhere.
It’s a bit of a stretch, unlike Ireland securing the Grand Slam, which feels like a short and easy step.