If Saturday is the RBS 6 Nations appetiser, then Sunday might just be the main course and dessert combined. The only two unbeaten sides left in the competition come face-to-face in Dublin as Ireland host England.
A victory for either side will put them firmly on course for a tilt at the Grand Slam. The Irish would have to deal with a trip to Cardiff on the final day of the championship, which adds another layer to the intrigue. Meanwhile, England’s potential decider would be at Twickenham against the unpredictable French.
Of course, before that there is the small matter of Sunday’s game. Ireland have been solid if not spectacular in the championship so far in securing their two victories. The opening day fixture in Rome was seen as a potential banana skin, however Joe Schmidt’s team overcame Italy with a hard-working performance. The second game against the French promised much, but as physicality took centre stage over flair, it was Jonny Sexton’s trusty kicking game that saw Ireland over the line.
England’s performances in the opening fixtures could hardly be more encouraging, bar a few defensive slips. The second half against Wales on the opening weekend was seen by many as one of the most complete 40 minutes of rugby put together by Stuart Lancaster’s team, ensuring a Welsh shut-out and featuring some stirring attacking rugby. Similarly, at times against Italy there was attacking flair to behold, with even the ever-green Nick Easter getting on the scoresheet. Some criticism has been levelled at England for the defensive lapses that saw the Italians get over the line three times, but it has not been enough to undermine the performance levels thus far.
Ireland are of course the RBS 6 Nations holders. However, last year at Twickenham, England overcame them 13-10. That occasion was a nail-biter, but couldn’t propel England to championship glory. The year previously was another tense affair, with England again coming out on top despite a barrage of Irish pressure, holding out for a 12-6 win. Whoever out of Sexton and George Ford has the better kicking day could go a long way to deciding the outcome.
So the past two years suggest fans of free-flowing rugby might not get the game they want. Despite England’s early championship form, the game in Dublin is unlikely to be a try-laden blow-out. Smart money would be on it being all to play for entering the final few minutes of the game. Which team will move in to round four with their chances of a Grand Slam still in place? Whoever’s boot doesn’t let them down.
George Ford is the current Gilbert Golden Boot holder. You can win tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final in May by entering our Gilbert Golden Boot competition.
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