Boys In Green Pumped For Possible Title Decider
Ireland v England
Will England continue their healthy record in Dublin or can Ireland take down their less experienced arch rivals at the Aviva on Sunday?
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland went from strength to strength in 2014, winning the 6 Nations and recording an impressive clean sweep in their autumn internationals. They haven’t been at their best in their two 6 Nations games so far, but they overcame a stubborn Italian defence in Rome to kick off with a win and backed that up last time with a hard-fought victory over France in Dublin to set up what could be the tie of the tournament against England.
2014 was a bruising year for Stuart Lancaster’s men, in which they once again fell short in the 6 Nations, and were beaten four times by the All-Blacks. But they kicked off World Cup year with a heroic 21-16 victory in Cardiff, despite fielding a line-up including five debutants, and although they suffered an early scare against Italy last time, another makeshift England team ran in six tries to pick up a second win.
Ireland started the tournament without a number of their first choice fifteen, but the situation has improved since and they are now more or less at full strength. James Cronin, Robbie Diack, Kieran Marmion and Nathan White are the only absentees from the Ireland squad.
England’s 6 Nations plans were thrown into chaos by a clutch of last minute injuries before the game in Cardiff and they are still missing a number of key players. That injury list lengthened with the concussion that full-back Mike Brown suffered against Italy. He will be replaced by Worcester player Chris Pennell, and there is a possibility that Courtney Lawes, Geoff Parling and Tom Wood might be available for the trip to Dublin.
Ahead of 14
Since the start of the 6 Nations, this fixture has been evenly contested, with Ireland winning seven of their fifteen encounters, but in recent years, the balance has tipped in England’s favour. They’ve won their last four against the men in green, including a narrow 13-10 victory at Twickenham last year to deny Ireland the Grand Slam.
England also have a healthy record in Dublin. Although, Ireland have won five of their last eight encounters on Irish soil, England have done well at Lansdowne Road, winning six of their last nine games there, including their latest, a bruising 12-6 victory in 2013.
It has taken a spate of injuries to bring it about but England are now posing the sort of threat with ball in hand that their supporters have been demanding for years. George Ford is linking up beautifully with Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph and the rampaging English back row also looks dangerous.
But we shouldn’t forget that this is still an inexperienced England side, and as Italy showed last time, they can be vulnerable. Ireland are the stronger and more settled side and should be able to contain the visitors,
…thanks to some typically resolute defending and the boot of Jonathan Sexton. Back Ireland at Evens in the Match Betting market.