England against Ireland on Saturday afternoon could be one of the matches of the 2022 Six Nations as both sides look to keep their title hopes alive at Twickenham.
With one defeat apiece in this year’s Six Nations – Ireland going down to an irresistible France and England falling to a disheartening Calcutta Cup loss to Scotland on the opening weekend – neither team has any margin for error if they want to head into Super Saturday with a shot at lifting the trophy.
Ireland have only won once at Twickenham once since 2010 – a 24-15 triumph to clinch the Grand Slam back in 2018 – but have been more impressive than their hosts in this year’s tournament and look further along in their development under Andy Farrell with a World Cup just 18 months away.
In fact, England coach Eddie Jones went as far as calling Ireland “the most cohesive team in the world” this week – although, as ever, it’s worth taking Jones’s pre-match statements with a healthy pinch of salt – and there is certainly a feeling that the hosts will have to find a level they didn’t reach even in wins over Wales and Italy to overcome an impressive Ireland team.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the game:
When is England vs Ireland?
The match will kick-off at 4.45pm GMT on Saturday 12 March at Twickenham in London.
How can I watch it?
It will be shown live on ITV with coverage starting from 4.15pm. It will also be available to stream live and for free on the ITV Hub and ITV website
What’s the team news?
Eddie Jones has made three changes to the England team that narrowly beat Wales in round three, as Sam Simmonds, Jamie George and Joe Marchant all come into the starting XV.
George’s inclusion was by necessity after a knee injury ruled Luke Cowan-Dickie out for the championship, with Jamie Blamire now providing hooker cover on the bench, while Simmonds is preferred at No 8 to Alex Dombrandt, who had a period of isolation following a positive Covid test but is well enough to be named among the replacements.
Joe Marchant comes into the centers outside Henry Slade, while Courtney Lawes retains the captain’s armband, Harry Randall is once again chosen at scrum half over England’s most-capped men’s player Ben Youngs and Maro Itoje is expected to start at lock – named in the team and although he was taken unwell overnight on Thursday, the coaching staff were hopeful he would recover in time for the Twickenham clash.
Having rested a number of key players for what proved to be a procession against Italy last time out, Ireland coach Andy Farrell has restored most of his senior heads as 36-year-old Johnny Sexton returns at fly half, Bundee Aki is back in midfield , James Ryan is in at lock and Cian Healy is on course to win his 115th cap as starting loosehead prop with Andrew Porter injured.
Fit-again Andrew Conway and the impressive Hugo Keenan are named in a much-changed back three alongside the retained James Lowe, with two-try debutant star Michael Lowry not in the matchday squad, as Robbie Henshaw is preferred as cover in the No 23 Jersey.
England XV: 15. Freddie Steward; 14. Max Malins, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Henry Slade, 11. Jack Nowell; 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Harry Randall; 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Charlie Ewels, 6. Courtney Lawes (c), 7. Tom Curry, 8. Sam Simmonds
Replacements: 16. Jamie Blamire, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Will Stuart, 19. Joe Launchbury, 20. Alex Dombrandt, 21. Ben Youngs, 22. George Ford, 23. Elliot Daly
Ireland XV: 15. Hugo Keenan; 14. Andrew Conway, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. James Lowe; 10. Johnny Sexton (c), 9. Jamison Gibson Park; 1. Cian Healy, 2. Dan Sheehan, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Tadhg Beirne, 5. James Ryan, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Caelan Doris
Replacements: 16. Rob Herring, 17. Dave Kilcoyne, 18. Finlay Bealham, 19. Iain Henderson, 20. Jack Conan, 21. Conor Murray, 22. Joey Carbery, 23. Robbie Henshaw
England win: 8/13
Ireland win: 6/4
It’s a game neither team can afford to lose and while the bookies have England as narrow favourites, Ireland have been the more impressive in this year’s Six Nations and will fancy their chances of claiming a rare Twickenham win. If Maro Itoje misses out through illness, that would tip the scales firmly in the visitors’ favor but even if Itoje is fit, this feels like a game where Andy Farrell’s men can notch a statement win and keep their title hopes alive. England 21-24 Ireland.