England v Ireland – Talking points
Six Nations champions Ireland will be looking to win the Grand Slam at Twickenham.
England and Ireland arrived at Twickenham on Saturday with different intentions, one looking to rescue their NatWest 6 Nations and the other seeking to make it complete.
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Here Press Association sport examines five talking points heading into the game.
The ultimate prize
Ireland have been recognised as worthy Six Nations champions by Eddie Jones, but as Brian O’Driscoll stated a fortnight ago the title is a “poor second” to winning the Grand Slam – the prize on offer at Twickenham. It has only been managed twice before in Irish history, sharpening the desire to spark the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Eddie fans the flames
Jones is famed for playing mind games but he inadvertently whipped up a midweek storm when footage emerged of him referring to Ireland as the “scummy Irish” and Wales as a “little s*** place” during a talk on leadership given in Japan last year. Opinion is divided on whether Ireland will draw motivation from the remarks, but at the very least it has been an embarrassing episode for the Rugby Football Union.
Successive defeats to Scotland and France have resulted in England performing radical surgery on their team with the pick of the seven changes in personnel the fielding of a new half-back partnership in Owen Farrell and Richard Wigglesworth. Jones repeatedly described it as a side to get on the front foot as he looks to prevent the slump spiralling further downwards.
Staring into the abyss
After delivering a Grand Slam and Championship crown in his first two years in charge, Jones could see season three marred by England’s worst-ever Six Nations performance in the shape of a fifth-place finish. Results elsewhere would have to conspire against the Red Rose, but it is a frightening prospect should it materialise given the ambition of the team.
Who sits on the All Blacks’ coattails?
From fifth place in Europe to second on the world stage – those are the extremes awaiting England. Ireland moved above them in the global rankings last weekend but will drop back to third if success eludes them at Twickenham, which has not been stormed in the Six Nations since 2012. New Zealand are the undisputed number one, leaving Saturday’s protagonists in London to scrap it out as chief supporting act.