Imago

Ireland chase honours

Ireland chase honours
By Reuters

17/03/2006 at 18:56Updated

A third successive victory in the fixture will earn the triple crown and possibly the Six Nations title, but it is Ireland rather than world champions England eyeing the twin honours at Twickenham on Saturday.

In 2003 England romped to a 42-6 Dublin success to clinch the grand slam and eight months later lifted the World Cup in Sydney.

Since then the boot has been firmly on the green-socked foot. The Irish ended England's 22-match Twickenham unbeaten run with a 19-13 victory in 2004 and repeated the scoreline at Lansdowne Road last year.

The 2004 win helped the Irish to their first triple crown for 19 years, as England finished third. The men in green were above the English again last year, albeit in third to their rivals' shocking fourth.

This season Ireland go into the game on six points, knowing that victory could make them Six Nations champions for the first time since 1985.

They will need Wales to pull off an unlikely home win over Paris earlier on Saturday or an enormous Twickenham victory for it to happen, but coach Eddie O'Sullivan is not thinking about scorelines.

"We've had some very good performances against the top teams in the world but we've never won any of these big games by more than one score," he said this week.

"If we are going to win at Twickenham it will take a hell of a performance and it will probably be a one-score game."

Ireland were comfortable 15-9 winners over Scotland last time out but with all the points coming via the boot of flyhalf Ronan O'Gara, captain Brian O'Driscoll is hoping for more action this time.

TALENTED PLAYERS

"I prefer to be in my back line than the English back line and that's not stirring things up, it's just how things are," he said.

"I think we've got extremely talented players. I'm not saying the English don't but I feel that we have a potentially world-class back line once we click...and that will hopefully happen this weekend."

If second row pair Paul O'Connell and Malcolm O'Kelly repeat their lineout domination of two years ago there should certainly be plenty of ball for O'Driscoll and partners to work with.

England's try drought extends through two games -- disappointing defeat in Scotland and humiliation in Paris.

Coach Andy Robinson described the performance in last week's 31-6 defeat by France as "awful and unacceptable" and made seven changes for Saturday's game, for which they remain heavy favourites and where victory could still sneak them the title.

After Robinson's cull, Ben Cohen is the only survivor in the starting team from the 15 who took to the field in the World Cup final against Australia three years ago.

It is the highest number of changes made by an England coach during a championship for 20 years but, with all but centre Stuart Abbott already deeply involved in the tournament, it is hardly the injection of new blood that many observers had demanded.

South Africa-born Wasps centre Abbott and retained partner Jamie Noon are charged with bringing spark and creativity to an England midfield that has been pedestrian and a very poor relation to the O'Driscoll/Gord0n D'Arcy pairing that will line up against them on Saturday.

Follow the clash between Ireland and England live on eurosport.com/co.uk Saturday from 18:30 cet!!!

TEAMS

England: 15-Tom Voyce; 14-Mark Cueto, 13-Jamie Noon, 12-Stuart Abbott, 11-Ben Cohen; 10-Andy Goode, 9-Harry Ellis; 8-Martin Corry (captain), 7-Lewis Moody, 6-Joe Worsley, 5-Simon Shaw, 4-Steve Borthwick, 3-Julian White, 2-Lee Mears, 1-Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16-Steve Thompson, 17-Perry Freshwater, 18-Danny Grewcock, 19-Lawrence Dallaglio, 20-Matt Dawson, 21-Dave Walder, 22-Mike Tindall.

Ireland: 15-Geordan Murphy; 14-Shane Horgan, 13-Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12-Gordon D'Arcy, 11-Andrew Trimble; 10-Ronan O'Gara, 9-Peter Stringer; 8-Denis Leamy, 7-David Wallace, 6-Simon Easterby, 5-Paul O'Connell, 4-Malcolm O'Kelly, 3-John Hayes, 2-Jerry Flannery, 1-Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16-Rory Best, 17-Simon Best, 18-Donncha O'Callaghan, 19-Johnny O'Connor, 20-Eoin Reddan, 21-David Humphreys, 22-Girvan Dempsey.

Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales).

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