Ireland play for their futures as Johnson's men close in on Slam
Martin Johnson's England may be chasing the Grand Slam, but there is plenty at stake for Ireland when the countries lock horns in their final Six Nations clash at Lansdowne Road this evening (5.0).
Not only are Declan Kidney's side seeking to spoil the English party, they are also seeking a crucial World Cup boost after a topsy-turvy Six Nations while victory today could also be a powerful statement towards securing the future of their coach and that of the players themselves in the Ireland set-up.
Declan Kidney guided Ireland to their first Grand Slam since 1948 in his first year of charge and it was confirmed yesterday that contract negotiations are set to commence following the conclusion of the Six Nations, so a win today would make a powerful statement regarding his continuing as head coach.
Kidney's predecessor Eddie O'Sullivan agreed a four-year contract extension before the 2007 World Cup, but Ireland's poor performance at that tournament, allied to a disappointing 2008 Six Nations, saw O'Sullivan resign in March that year.
Kidney took on the role in May 2008 and is contracted through the World Cup in New Zealand this autumn, but there are no indications that an announcement will be made prior to that tournament.
Kidney is on his second period of secondment from his teaching role at PBC Cork and, while there has been speculation that the 51-year-old may seek a return to his old job, the Cork school say they are not aware of any moves in this regard.
On the pitch, Ireland scrum-half Eoin Reddan was yesterday given the all clear to start following the concussion suffered in the first minute of last week's defeat to Wales in Cardiff.
Meanwhile, Mike Ross, who starts at tight-head for Ireland against England this evening, is set to commit his future to Leinster.
The former Munster and Harlequins prop is understood to have come to a verbal agreement on a new two-year contract with Joe Schmidt's side with the final details to be confirmed over the next few days.