Eddie Jones & Co. will be looking to bow out of the Six Nations on Super Saturday with pride still intact against an Ireland team they know how to beat.
England conceded their title with a round three defeat by Wales and if they fall in Dublin today, they will have equalled their worst Six Nations performance of three defeats.
The Aviva Stadium showdown will be the last match for this squad until the autumn, due to the recruitment of their established stars for the Lions’ summer series against South Africa, and the players will no doubt want to make a statement.
Ireland have to trawl back to Twickenham in 2018 for their last success in the fixture and they are still finding their way under Andy Farrell, who took over from Joe Schmidt after the 2019 World Cup.
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Jones circles the wagons
Even with the title out of reach, England appear suitably stirred up for the climax to the tournament with their critics in the crosshairs.
Jones has railed against the “rat poison” written about his players – he was asked about Elliot Daly’s confidence, but the response suggested there were multiple scores to settle – while prop Ellis Genge is clearly still vexed by the outcry to a record defeat by Wales in round three.
It is siege mentality psychology with a vulnerable Ireland side in the firing line.
Boom or bust – again
Amid the understandable euphoria of England’s rousing victory over France – their finest performance and result since the 2019 World Cup – is the reality that lose to Ireland and they equal their worst Six Nations performances of 2005, 2006 and 2018.
As ever in the Championship, the stakes are high – a fifth successive victory over Ireland would accelerate the team away from a tricky period while defeat would invite renewed pressure on to Eddie Jones.
On the evidence available against France, England have their mojo back and should dispatch opponents who have yet to beat a top tier adversary under head coach Andy Farrell.
The fact that neither side can hope to claim the Six Nations title should not detract from what will be a typically bruising and ferocious encounter.
England have won four matches in a row against Ireland and have had success over recent years with their sheer physicality.
Confidence should be high in the visitors’ camp after that sensational win over France and we are backing them to pull out another narrow triumph here.
Jones would surely have serious questions to answer if his side end the 2021 Six Nations with three defeats from five.
England XV: M Malins (Bristol); A Watson (Bath), E Daly (Saracens), O Farrell (Saracens, capt), J May (Gloucester); G Ford (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester); M Vunipola (Saracens), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), K Sinckler (Bristol), M Itoje (Saracens), C Ewels (Bath), M Wilson (Newcastle), T Curry (Sale Sharks), B Vunipola (Saracens).
Replacements: J George (Saracens), E Genge (Leicester), W Stuart (Bath), J Hill (Exeter), B Earl (Bristol), D Robson (Wasps), O Lawrence (Worcester), J Marchant (Harlequins).
Ireland XV: H Keenan (Leinster); K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster, capt), C Murray (Munster); D Kilcoyne (Munster), R Herring (Ulster), T Furlong (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), T Beirne (Munster), CJ Stander (Munster), J van der Flier (Leinster), J Conan (Leinster).
Replacements: R Kelleher (Leinster), C Healy (Leinster), A Porter (Leinster), R Baird (Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster), J Gibson-Park (Leinster), B Burns (Ulster), J Larmour (Leinster).
Welcome to the Evening Standard’s LIVE coverage of the Six Nations clash between Ireland and England.
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