Ireland limited the injury damage from last weekend’s bruising victory in Edinburgh and made just three changes as they seek to complete a Six Nations Gram Slam with victory over England in Dublin on Saturday.
Number eight Caelan Doris and hooker Dan Sheehan, two of the five Irish players who left the field injured against Scotland and who have been among Ireland’s best players all campaign, are fit enough to start. Centre Garry Ringrose and lock Iain Henderson were already ruled out but the return of fit again Robbie Henshaw, starting his first game of the championship, softens the blow of losing the increasingly influential Ringrose.
Ryan Baird comes in at second row, with Leinster team mate Jamison Gibson-Park the other change as he returns to make his first start of the year to bring the kind of high tempo at scrumhalf England struggled with in last week’s 53-10 thrashing by France. “It’s a strong side, happy with it obviously. Fit and raring to go,” said coach Andy Farrell, who joked after the Scotland game that he might have to scout a local under 12s team to find fit bodies for the championship finale.
While a draw at the Aviva Stadium will be enough to win the title, Ireland will want to underline their status as the world’s top-ranked side with a clean sweep of victories heading into September’s World Cup. Amid the St Patrick’s weekend festivities, it is also an opportunity to complete a Grand Slam on home soil for the first time in 75 years, having clinched the two secured since in Cardiff in 2009 and London in 2018.
However, Farrell was taking nothing for granted and expects a reaction from his native England following their record mauling by France. “They’re going to be formidable opponents. In patches we’ve seen in their attacking game when it has been flowing etc, they’re as dangerous as anyone in the competition,” Farrell told a news conference.
“I suppose in many ways, this is the perfect weekend for them. You’d expect them to be way better than their best so far because I know that’s what is in them, I know the fight that’s in the players and the coaching staff.” Ireland team:
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster) 29 caps 14. Mack Hansen (Connacht) 13 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster) 61 caps 12. Bundee Aki (Connacht) 45 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 19 caps 10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster) 112 caps (captain)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster) 24 caps 1. Andrew Porter (Leinster) 52 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster) 16 caps 3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster) 64 caps
4. Ryan Baird (Leinster) 10 caps 5. James Ryan (Leinster) 52 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster) 93 caps 7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster) 49 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster) 27 caps Replacements
16. Rob Herring (Ulster) 33 caps 17. Cian Healy (Leinster) 122 caps
18. Tom O’Toole (Ulster) 8 caps 19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster) 10 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster) 37 caps 21. Conor Murray (Munster) 104 caps
22. Ross Byrne (Leinster) 18 caps 23. Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster) 4 caps
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