England vs Ireland

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A titanic clash between defending champions Ireland and England at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium gets us started this afternoon.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.

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Ireland vs England team news and line-ups

England’s ranks have been bolstered 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.

Jones has opted to retain Elliot Daly at full-back despite Mike Brown’s proven ability to operate under the high ball, with the latter – along with Joe Launchbury – missing out altogether as Chris Ashton is preferred as a replacement.

George Kruis – and not Courtney Lawes – gets the nod in the second row alongside Maro Itoje as England look to utilise the lineout, while Manu Tuilagi is set to make his first Six Nations start for almost six years at inside centre and Jack Nowell is recalled to the wing.

Tuilagi partners Henry Slade in midfield as captain Owen Farrell starts at fly-half and George Ford settles for a place on the bench.

As for Ireland, centre Robbie Henshaw will make a rare start at full-back instead of Rob Kearney and Josh van der Flier pips the fit-again Sean O’Brien on the openside.

Influential scrum-half Conor Murray returns to the starting XV after missing the autumn Tests with a neck injury.

Ireland XV: Henshaw; Earls, Ringrose, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best (c), Furlong; Toner, Ryan; O’Mahony, Van Der Flier, Stander

Replacements: Cronin, Kilcoyne, Porter, Roux, O’Brien, Cooney, Carberry, Larmour

England XV: Daly; Nowell, Slade, Tuilagi, May; Farrell (c), Youngs; M.Vunipola, George, Sinckler; Itoje, Kruis; Wilson, T.Curry, B.Vunipola

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Genge, Williams, Lawes, Hughes, Robson, Ford, Ashton

TV channel and live stream, and online coverage

ITV and the BBC are sharing broadcasting rights for the Six Nations for the third successive year, with ITV hosting Ireland vs England on its main free-to-air channel and via the ITV Player.

Score prediction: Ireland 20-10 England

While there is always a chance that an improved England side with the majority of their key operators fit could catch Ireland cold on the opening weekend, it is incredibly difficult to pick against this current Ireland team in what is certain to be a lively atmosphere.

England have struggled in Dublin since ending a 10-year winless run there back in 2013, losing 19-9 in 2015 before a 13-9 defeat that ended their winning run two years ago.

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