With barely half of this year’s Six Nations tournament gone, Ireland already have their sights on silverware as they travel to Twickenham to face England.
Wins over Wales and Scotland mean that victory on Sunday will give them the trophy and set them up for a shot at the Grand Slam while all but ending England’s chances of winning the championship they last won back in 2017.
Ireland will be without lock Iain Henderson for the clash who is missing due to family reasons with Devon Toner filling the void.
The inclusion of Leinster’s Toner, capped 69 times by Ireland, is the only change to the line-up as coach Andy Farrell keeps faith with the side who have won two from two ahead of a trip to the stadium they sealed the Grand Slam in 2018.
A fascinating side plot to Sunday’s clash is that it pits England captain and inside centre Owen Farrell against his father Andy, who has been with Ireland for four years but this will be the first time he has faced his son since becoming head coach.
But Farrell Snr has played down the significance despite it being a momentous day for the Farrell household saying: “It’s another big game. We’ll play this game and the next one will be big as well,” before adding that he had spoken to his son “two or three times” this week.
His counterpart, Eddie Jones, makes four changes, including a recall for the fit-again Manu Tuilagi in the centre and veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs as England try to build on their slender 13-6 win at Scotland two weeks ago.
Centre Jonathan Joseph is on the wing for his 50th cap as Jones shuffles England’s backline while Elliot Daly moves to full-back with George Furbank, who began the first two games, injured.
Centre Manu Tuilagi is back after recovering from a groin niggle and Prop Joe Marler replaces the unavailable Mako Vunipola, with Ben Youngs returning at scrum-half and Courtney Lawes starting on the flank.
Henry Slade returns to the bench along with locks, Charlie Ewels and Joe Launchbury as Jones again loads his bench with six forwards.
England bounced back from an opening defeat to France with a gritty victory over Scotland in appalling weather conditions at Murrayfield and Jones knows victory over Ireland could put them in the driving seat when it comes to another Six Nations title.
“We’ve had a really good training week with Thursday probably our best session of the Guinness Six Nations,” he said this week.
“We trained at Twickenham Stadium in front of 10,000 fans last Friday and we can’t wait to get back out there in front of 80,000 people on Sunday.”
Ireland have won on four of their last ten visits to London, with their most recent, in 2018, ending a run of three defeats in a row at Twickenham as they failed to score more than 10 points in any of those defeats.
But Eddie Jones is more than aware of how dangerous they can be, saying of England’s opponents: “Ireland are a very good team, extremely well-coached. They are a team we respect a lot. We’ve got to make sure we match their physicality and their emotion.”
England: Daly; May, Tuilagi, Farrell (capt), Joseph; Ford, Youngs; Marler, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Lawes, Underhill, Curry.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Genge, Stuart, Launchbury, Ewels, Earl, Heinz, Slade.
Ireland: Larmour; Conway, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Herring, Furlong, Toner, Ryan, O’Mahony, van der Flier, Stander.
Replacements: Kelleher, Kilcoyne, Porter, Dillane, Doris, Cooney, Byrne, Earls.
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