England vs Ireland : Six Nations 2019: England vs Ireland score prediction, line-ups, odds, live stream, TV, h2h The Six Nations – now widely revered as perhaps the greatest rugby tournament in either hemisphere – returns in all its bruising glory this week, with Wales facing a Friday night trip to Paris and Italy attempting to end their 17-match winless run in Edinburgh.
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However, those contests rather pale into insignificance in comparison with the weekend’s main event – the small matter of a titanic clash between Ireland and England at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
Having claimed their third Grand Slam title courtesy of a hugely satisfying 24-15 victory at Twickenham on the final weekend in 2018, the hosts and defending champions head into this year’s tournament hoping to justify their billing as clear favourites and as New Zealand’s closest global rivals ahead of the looming World Cup.
Joe Schmidt, who will leave Ireland after that tournament in Japan and hand the reins over to defence coach Andy Farrell, saw his team consolidate their position as the world’s second-ranked international outfit during a winning autumn that included restricting the All Blacks to an incredibly rare try-less outing in a second win over that illustrious opponent in as many years and a first at home.
England had previously assumed the mantle as New Zealand’s biggest threat following a blistering first two years of Eddie Jones’ reign that included two Six Nations titles, an 18-game unbeaten streak, 22 wins from 23 Tests and a historic series whitewash in Australia.
Maro Itoje positive England have the quality to take down Ireland
However, where 2018 was so memorable for Ireland, the previously dominant Red Rose endured something of a collapse.
They finished a paltry fifth in the Six Nations, lost five contests in a row and a series in South Africa before recovering somewhat during an autumn campaign in which they beat the Springboks, Australia and Japan as well as losing in heartbreaking fashion to the All Blacks.
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Tensions and mind games have been on the agenda all week in the build-up to this mouthwatering showdown, with England assistant coach John Mitchell claiming that Ireland will essentially “try to bore the s*** out of us”.
England’s ranks have been bolstered for the Six Nations by the return of several key players including Billy Vunipola, though Ben Te’o, Brad Shields and Joe Cokanasiga will all miss the opening fixture through injury.