- Ireland: Although they currently lie joint second in the table, Ireland are one of four teams who have won twice and lost twice in this year’s championship. They opened their campaign with a loss to Scotland, before victories over France and Italy and a defeat to Wales last weekend. Regardless of form, Ireland would love nothing more than to spoil England’s Grand Slam party and bring their 18-match winning streak to an end.
- England: England are on course to win the Grand Slam two years in a row for the first time in the tournament’s history. Currently the form team in world rugby, they’ve swept all before them under the guidance of Jones, including Six Nations victories over France, Wales, Italy and the most-recent seven-try demolition of Scotland at Twickenham, with the latter strengthening England’s position heading into the weekend.
The bookmakers agree England captain Dylan Hartley is favourite to lift the Grand Slam aloft after the final whistle in Dublin, with Half Time/Full Time odds of 13/10. However, all the pressure will be on the visitors and history suggests it isn’t a foregone conclusion. They have been in this position before - with a Grand Slam to win on the final weekend - and come up agonisingly short. Think 2013 against Wales, 2001 in Ireland and 2000 away to Scotland.
Hat-trick hero against Scotland, Jonathan Joseph stood out in the Calcutta Cup clash, and England top the tournament stats for tries scored (16) and total points (137). Full-back Mike Brown has gained the most metres (370) whilst second-row Joe Launchbury is the championship’s top tackler (67). England will look to start as brightly against Ireland as they did against Scotland – racing into a 20-0 lead inside the first half an hour – and are 8/11 to score the game’s first try on Saturday.
It’s significant that four of England’s seven tries against Scotland came from England’s ‘finishers’. Try-scorers Billy Vunipola, Danny Care and Anthony Watson all made big impacts coming off the bench on Saturday, and the strength and quality of their replacements could be telling as changes are made around the hour-mark. England are 8/11 to score the game’s last try against Ireland, and it could very well come from one of Jones’ finishers in the latter stages of what looks like a pulsating, mouth-watering clash on paper.
As for Ireland, they’ll relish the opportunity they’ve been given to gatecrash England’s party on St. Patrick's weekend. With captain Rory Best, CJ Stander and others in their ranks, Joe Schmidt’s side will be giving everything to the cause to become the first side to beat the Red Rose since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and are 5/1 to prevail by 1-5 points. Alternatively, they’re 13/2 to secure victory by 6-10 points.
However, England won last year’s corresponding fixture 21-10, and given the way the likes of Owen Farrell, George Ford and Co. are playing, you would expect they’ll be able to get the job done to write their names into the Six Nations history books as the first team ever to win back-to-back Grand Slams.
- Sports.net’s Top Tip: England to win by 6-10 points – 11/2