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Six Nations – Ireland v England Preview, Stats & Tips – Saturday March 18th

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Ireland v England, Saturday March 18 (5.00pm)

Ireland will complete their fourth championship clean sweep with victory over an England side recently thumped 53-10 by France, at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton will captain the hosts in Dublin as he seeks to celebrate his 60th and final Six Nations outing before retirement by lifting silverware.

Steve Borthwick will want to see a response from his dejected troops – but there is no chance of them being post-St Patrick’s Day party poopers and Ireland will secure a dominant win.

Round one results:

  • England 23 Scotland 29
  • Italy 24 France 29
  • Wales 10 Ireland 34

Round two results:

  • Ireland 32 France 19
  • Scotland 35 Wales 7
  • England 31 Italy 14

Round three results:

  • Italy 20 Ireland 34
  • Wales 10 England 20
  • France 32 Scotland 21

Round four results:

  • Italy 17 Wales 29
  • England 10 France 53
  • Scotland 7 Ireland 22

Team news

Ireland trio Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson-Park and Robbie Henshaw will make their first starts of this year’s Guinness Six Nations in Saturday’s crunch Grand Slam decider.

Lock Baird and centre Henshaw replace injured pair Iain Henderson and Garry Ringrose following last week’s bruising 22-7 round-four win away to Scotland.

Scrum-half Gibson-Park came off the bench in Edinburgh and has been preferred to Conor Murray in the only unenforced alteration to Andy Farrell’s starting XV.

Hooker Dan Sheehan and number eight Caelan Doris have been passed fit following their premature withdrawals amid the Murrayfield mayhem.

But back-up number two Ronan Kelleher, who suffered a recurrence of a shoulder issue against the Scots, has joined Henderson (arm) and Ringrose (head) in being ruled out.

Reigning world player of the year Josh Van Der Flier will win his 50th Ireland cap, joining fellow flanker Peter O’Mahony and the fit-again Doris in the back row.

Bundee Aki and Henshaw, who missed the start of the competition with a wrist injury, will be the midfield pairing, with the unstoppable James Lowe, Hugo Keenan and Mack Hansen continuing as head coach Farrell’s back three.

Henry Arundell will start for the first time when England attempt to gatecrash Ireland’s Grand Slam party. He has replaced Max Malins on the left wing in the hope that the most exciting talent in English rugby can produce the magic needed to topple the world’s number one-ranked side.

The 20-year-old try-scoring sensation has won all six of his previous caps off the bench and will add X-factor to the backline.

Owen Farrell is restored at fly-half after being dropped for the 53-10 defeat by France last Saturday, with Marcus Smith demoted to the bench to accommodate the England captain.

Head coach Borthwick has made one of two enforced changes at inside centre where Manu Tuilagi replaces hamstring-injury victim Ollie Lawrence.

Tuilagi makes his first appearance of the Guinness Six Nations having initially been frozen out by Borthwick and then receiving a three-match ban for dangerous play on club duty for Sale.

The powerful 31-year-old has made all six of his previous appearances against Ireland and forms a midfield trio alongside Farrell and Henry Slade that was last seen during the 2019 World Cup.

Breakout second row Ollie Chessum sustained an ankle injury in training on Tuesday so David Ribbans is drafted into the starting XV in the only adjustment to the pack mauled by France.

Apart from the promotion of Arundell and Farrell and the necessary changes at centre and lock, Borthwick has given the same XV that collapsed to the nation’s record Championship defeat a chance to redeem themselves.

“We travel to Dublin to face an Ireland team that has the chance to secure a Grand Slam Championship victory at home for the first time,” Borthwick said.

“We know that after the bitter disappointment of the display against an exceptional France side, we will have to be much improved to meet the challenge of playing the side presently ranked number one in the world.

“However, I have witnessed an England squad determined to make amends for the defeat at Twickenham.

“I’m confident that the team announced will once again want to show the sort of resilience and attitude that brought us victory in Wales.”

We do not share Borthwick’s confidence and think the hosts will have too much class and power for England, with Lowe tipped to be too hot to handle for the visiting defence.

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