England and Ireland are the two unbeaten sides as we head into the third round of the Six Nations. They have a showdown against each other at Twickenham in round five.
England do look to have a good chance of winning their third consecutive Six Nations title and repeating their heroics of 2016 when they claimed the grand slam and there are a number of reasons why.
1. Owen Farrell
Is there anything this man can’t do? He has been sensational in whatever colours he is wearing whether it’s the black and red of Saracens or in the white of England. His combination play with Leicester fly-half George Ford is just outstanding.
Farrell is kicking well and giving England’s flyers like Jonny May and Anthony Watson so much space. He is head and shoulders above of everyone else. England need this man to have any chance of winning that third consecutive title let alone a grand slam.
2. Home advantage
Round five sees England face Ireland at home, at a ground they haven’t lost at since 2015. The Red Rose will fancy their chances at Twickenham should they defeat Scotland and France.
Ireland also have two tricky fixtures to negotiate against Wales and Scotland, and they know how much of a challenge playing England at Twickenham is. This does give England a slight advantage.
3. Glimpses of what England can do
England have shown that they can be brilliant and really should have put Wales away and killed the game far earlier than they did. They hit twice with two May tries from nothing. Wales had no answers for England in that first quarter and Rhys Patchell had a torrid time against George Ford and Owen Farrell.
In defence England were powerful, they strangled the life out of the Wales attack in the first half and had enough to see off the second half onslaught from Wales.
4. The return of Nathan Hughes
With a fit again Nathan Hughes England may find more of a balance in their back row, Sam Simmonds has been excellent but Hughes is the more heavy duty carrier that England have been looking for.
This may also give England the chance to bring Sam Underhill back into the starting lineup. He is the only genuine openside England have in the squad who’s fit. With him, Hughes and Chris Robshaw, it offers a far better balance than the Robshaw, Courtney Lawes, Sam Simmonds combination we have previously seen.
5. No Robbie Henshaw
Ireland have lost arguably their most important back. Robbie Henshaw is an extremely important player for Ireland as he tackles tirelessly and he carries strongly. His injury puts a lot more pressure on the likes of Bundee Aki.
Henshaw’s hole will be possibly filled by Leinster centre Garry Ringrose, who has been called into the squad. It’s not exactly a like-for-like replacement.
England-Ireland is set to be a firecracker and of course both teams face two tricky ties before then, but should it go down to the final day, England may have the edge.