England are looking to win their 19th match in a row – a world record – when they face Ireland at the Aviva stadium, on Saturday, March 18th at 5pm.
England share the current world record (18 victories) with New Zealand. Ironically, it was Ireland who ended New Zealand’s record, back in November fifth, 2016, in what was Ireland’s first win against New Zealand ever.
A win would also give England their second, consecutive Grand Slam. They have already won the Six Nations championship, after beating Scotland, 61-21. The win left them with 18 points on the table, far more than their nearest rivals, Ireland (10).
It was the second time in a row that England were awarded the trophy, with one match to spare, having done so in 2016.
It was an amazing performance by England. They were facing a resurgent Scotland, who were themselves looking to win their first Triple Crown since 1990.
It was not to be as England ran riot, scoring seven tries in all, including a hat-trick for centre Jonathan Joseph and a brace for replacement scrum-half, Danny Care.
It was a nightmare game for Scotland, who were down to 14 men after two minutes, when their hooker, Brown, was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle.
They also lost four players to injury, including Stuart Hogg, who has consistently been one of their best players in the last few years. Scotland conceded 20 points in the first quarter of the match and never managed to get a grip on the game.
The 61-21 scoreline was the biggest winning margin in the fixture, which dates back to 1871 and is the oldest rugby Test fixture in the world. It was also the greatest number of points England have scored against Scotland.
It was the also the second highest number of points that England have scored against another of rugby’s giants, having beaten Wales, 62-5 in 2007.
Ireland were hoping to also be going for the Grand Slam but this year’s tournament has been one of disappointment, with losses to both Scotland and Wales.
Ireland were beaten by Scotland in the opening fixture and lost to Wales last Friday, by 22-9. Wales scored three tries in all, including two for their giant wing George North. It was North’s best game for his country in a long time.
Ireland weren’t helped by the absence of their talismanic half-backs. Jonny Sexton was sin-binned in the first few minutes of the game, for committing a professional foul and Conor Murray went off injured after suffering an arm injury.
Murray’s replacement, Kieran Marmiom, played very well when he came on, his snap pass really opens up the opposition defence but he didn’t have the same effect that Murray has had.
The two half-backs are pivotal to Ireland’s chances of victory against England. Some pundits have talked of Ireland getting predictable and complacent (former coach Eddie O’Sullivan certainly thinks so) and there has been talk of Joe Schmidt changing the team.
Rob Kearney played well against Wales but someone like Jared Payne would be an unknown threat. Likewise, Jamie Heaslip has been a great player for Ireland over the years but the other countries are wise to his style of play.
A suggestion was bringing in CJ Stander at no.8, with Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony on the flanks. That would certainly be a more dynamic back row. Not to say Heaslip won’t play well if selected.
Another intriguing aspect of the game concerns the Farrell family, with out-half Owen Farrell being a pivotal member of the English team and his dad, Andy, is Ireland’s defence coach! It’s the first time the two have been on opposing sides in the championship, since Andy Farrell took on the job.
As it stands, England go into the match as favourites. Ireland will need to pull out their best performance since beating New Zealand if they are to have any chance of winning.