It’s been quite a while (ten years) since England last managed a Six Nations win at Ireland, but their first visit to the Aviva stadium since August 2011 brings with it a different sense of favorites, and a sign of change in the constant power struggle.
Both teams positioned themselves as favorites to win the competition in 2013 after the opening weekend – Ireland with a tremendous first half in Wales, inspired by the never ending Brian O’Driscoll, while Simon Zebo brought the flair from the wing; England with a 38-18 win against Scotland at Twickenham, bursting and running away with it in the second half with another showing of the impressive English side developing under Stuart Lancaster.
For much of the previous decade, after the peak in 2003, it was an Irish run of dominance against England, winning seven of eight Six Nations matches between 2004 and 2011. England crushed Ireland 30-9 last year at Twickenham, but are looking for their first win in Dublin since 2003.
Ireland aren’t making a single change to the team that was bursting with energy a week ago in Cardiff. Gordon D’Arcy recovered from the dead leg he sustained, Peter O’Mahony was cleared after suffering from a concussion. Jonathan Sexton at no. 10, probably the favorite at the moment to start for the Lions at Fly-Half, has quite a duel on his hands facing a challenging Owen Farrell, but the really important work will be done by players like Cian Healy and Rory Best, who were spectacular in their dominance against Wales.
England do have Manu Tuilagi back from injury, but the Leicester Tigers man won’t be in the lineup, as James Haskell making his return is the only different name in the starting XV, coming in at no. 6 to replace the injured Ben Morgan. Tom Wood moves to the back of the scrum to fill the void left by Morgan.
The interesting men for England will be Billy Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt at centre, Joe Marler at number one and Dan Cole, who was fantastic against Scotland, and has quite a battle ahead of him, facing Cian Healy.
Prediction – Ireland usually come out firing against England in Dublin, but when it comes to talent, the English side are the favorites. Remaining disciplined and composed early on to weather the storm should be enough for England to claim a second win in the championship this year.