Ireland v England – Five points of discussion ahead of the Six Nations clash in Dublin

Ireland are close to winning their fourth Grand Slam when they meet England in the culmination of the Guinness Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency tackles five talking points ahead of a game where the Irish are overwhelming favorites to win.

Let the party begin

The stage is set for one of the big days in Irish rugby as the national team look to complete the Grand Slam in Dublin for the first time – on St Patrick’s weekend. The previous three were secured in Belfast, Cardiff and London. Expectations are at an all-time high and head coach Andy Farrell has spoken of running “the circus” knowing England were universally written off after beating France 53-10 at Twickenham in round four. Giving in to the pressures of the day appears to be Ireland’s greatest threat on a day when it can cement its status as world number one.

United Irish go ahead

If the script is followed at the Aviva Stadium it will be as much a win for the Irish system as anything else. A production line of talent is rolling out of the four provinces – led by Leinster, who is delivering 13 of the starting XV – in a setup optimized for their success in the United Ruby Championship and in Europe, while ensuring Ireland are in the best possible position is competing on a global scale. In contrast, England’s fragile structure combined with a precarious financial situation undermines the national interest. Meanwhile, the green shirts thrive under the stewardship of a proud Englishman in Farrell.

England’s minimum requirement

Ellis Genge has urged England to prove themselves against Ireland (Ben Whitley/PA)

The most troubling element of England’s record defeat at Twickenham was the extent of the physical discrepancy, a shortcoming Ellis Genge has pointed out by admitting his team lacked the struggle they needed. France were great but Steve Borthwick’s side allowed themselves to be bullied in an afternoon that could leave significant scars. Aside from two injury-related changes and the adjustments to the half wing and wing, the same group has been given a chance to make amends. Ireland, toppling the kingpins of the leaderboard, may be off that side, but showing an appetite for the clashes must be a given as some starters gamble for their test futures.

selection carousel

A valid argument can be made for Owen Farrell’s return at the expense of Marcus Smith, but the final spin in the merry-go-round of flying-half selection is beginning to look muddled. Farrell’s bite, leadership and defensive prowess will be in demand at the Aviva stadium, although his recall is tough on Smith, who operated from the weakest platforms against France. Whatever the reasons, continuity remains elusive in the quicksand of midfield, where Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade are reunited for the first time since the 2019 World Cup. The raging center Tuilagi, an injured replacement for Ollie Lawrence, is making his Six Nations debut but his perfect record of six wins in six games against Ireland will surely come to an end.

Arundell to show off his X-Factor

Henry Arundell scores one of his two Test attempts against Italy in round two

Henry Arundell scores one of his two Test attempts against Italy in round two (David Davies/PA)

Clever thinking or desperate dice? Only time will tell if choosing Ireland in Dublin for Henry Arundell’s first Test start is the right call, but the timing seems odd given what awaits us on Saturday. The explosive 20-year-old is the most exciting talent in English football, able to score spectacular tries out of thin air, but in his six caps as a substitute he has touched the ball six times in 77 minutes. To underscore his finishing skills, he scored two tries with those six touches. For his full debut to demonstrate his unique talent, Arundell needs to get the ball – easier said than done against the ruthlessly efficient Irish.

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