England v Ireland: Farrell's unbeaten visitors can keep Six Nations clash tight
England got off the mark in the Six Nations in Scotland but must beat unbeaten Ireland to maintain their title hopes and Simon Mail previews the Twickenham clash...
England v Ireland Sunday, 15:00 Live on ITV
England back in contention after Scotland scrap
England made a poor start to the Six Nations but Eddie Jones' side remain in contention for the title. A home clash against Ireland this weekend could prove decisive with England unable to afford another slip-up if they are to reclaim the championship. The World Cup finalists have failed to reproduce the form which stunned New Zealand in Japan last year but there is still time for England to rediscover their best form.
There is no doubt England endured a World Cup hangover in their Six Nations opener as they were outplayed in the 24-17 defeat to France. Arguably fortunate to snare a losing bonus-point, England got off the mark with a dogged 13-6 victory in Scotland. Horrendous conditions at Murrayfield made it a difficult watch but Ellis Genge's try ensured England remain a factor in the title picture.
Jones makes four changes from the side which won in Scotland with Manu Tuilagi fit to return from his groin niggle. The outside centre replaces injured George Furbank with Elliot Daly switching from the wing to full-back. Jonathan Joseph wins his 50th cap as he starts on the wing while scrum-half Ben Youngs replaces Willi Heinz. With Mako Vunipola unavailable for family reasons, Joe Marler comes into the pack and Courtney Lawes replaces Lewis Ludlam.
Ireland vying for title after back-to-back wins
Ireland have plenty at stake this weekend with the team not only going for the title but having the chance to clinch the Triple Crown with a win against England. Andy Farrell has started his Ireland tenure with back-to-back victories although the performances have differed significantly. An unconvincing 19-12 win against Scotland was followed by an impressive 24-14 victory against champions Wales, with the hosts claiming a bonus point after scoring four tries.
Farrell has opted for continuity and decided against wholesale changes in the aftermath of a disappointing World Cup campaign in Joe Schmidt's final season in charge. Handing the captaincy to fly-half Johnny Sexton looks a shrewd decision and he has kept faith with scrum-half Conor Murray despite in-form John Cooney waiting in reserve. The decision to select the same team which defeated Wales underlines his faith in his players heading into the Twickenham clash.
It is two wins apiece from the last four meetings between the teams although Ireland have fond memories of their last Six Nations game at Twickenham. The St Patrick's Day clash in 2018 turned into a huge celebration with Ireland clinching the Six Nations Grand Slam after a 24-15 victory. Ten of the starting XV are in the side this weekend and a repeat win certainly should not be ruled out.
Ireland appear to be heading into this match in better shape while there are question marks against England. The pressure is on the hosts but Ireland look well equipped to run them close at Twickenham. The visitors are given a seven-point handicap and this looks well worth backing. Even if England prevail, it is unlikely to be by a big margin and Ireland look the value play with a head start.
Daly boasts an excellent recent record against Ireland and the England back can maintain this run by scoring on Sunday. Daly has scored four tries in his last three matches against this weekend's opponents. Three of those came in the last two games at Twickenham against Ireland and he looks a major threat for the home side in a match which hangs in the balance.