5 talking points ahead of Ireland v England

17 March 2017 12:08

The 2017 RBS 6 Nations draws to a close when Ireland host champions England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Here, we examine five talking points heading into the match.

Greatness awaits

Eddie Jones has urged England to obtain "greatness" by completing back to back Grand Slams, in the process becoming the first team to register 19 successive Test victories. Both would be magnificent achievements for a team that 17 months ago was picking through the ruins of the worst ever World Cup performance by a host nation.

Advantage England

Ireland's team announcement saw their odds of upsetting the champions lengthen, injury robbing them of half-back general Conor Murray and their imperious full-back Rob Kearney. In contrast, England are able to start Billy Vunipola at number eight and Anthony Watson on the right, restoring them close to full strength.

Lions auditions

Mouth-watering duels that will help shape Lions selection are scattered across the Aviva Stadium pitch, the front and back rows delivering the best of them. Sean O'Brien v James Haskell is a heavyweight showdown, as is CJ Stander's head-to-head with Maro Itoje. Ireland's young props will be looking to make their mark against more experienced opponents and can George Ford advance his case against Jonathan Sexton?

2011 revisited

Six years ago England travelled to Dublin intent on claiming the Grand Slam under Martin Johnson, only to be crushed 24-8. With the champions retaining four survivors from the starting XV that fell to Brian O'Driscoll's men that day, it has been used as a reference point during the build-up to prevent a repeat scenario.

Flash in the pan?

Who are the real Ireland - the team that ended New Zealand's 18-Test record-setting winning run in Chicago last autumn or a side that could fall substantially short of expectations by ending a Six Nations many expected them to take by storm with three defeats? Joe Schmidt has faced accusations that his team have become predictable and there is much for Ireland to prove.

Source: PA