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Ireland vs England: All 46 players rated - and the home team have the edge


Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell are the key men for their team. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell are the key men for their team. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell are the key men for their team. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Here is how the two teams compare ahead of Ireland's Grand Slam showdown with England.


Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) Age: 26 Caps: 29

Once deemed merely the securest of game-keepers, no mean feat in itself given his predecessor’s eminence, Keenan is now an attacker of steadfast determination with deft sleight of hand and dead-eyed distribution. Made more metres (499) than anyone else. 9

Mack Hansen (Connacht/Corinthians) Age: 24 Caps: 13

On course for a hat-trick of subjective player of the match awards, his performances have become more measured; an outstanding finisher and double poach against Scots reflected his growing defensive responsibilities. 9

Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) Age: 29 Caps: 61

Opportunity to finish the campaign with boundless energy after an injury absence and freshness will enthuse those around who may flag after such immense effort six days ago; a natural defensive lynchpin in Ringrose’s midfield absence. 9

Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) Age: 32 Caps: 45

Restored for successive weeks to his more favoured midfield role, his experimental shift at 13 against Italy renders that future possibility a non-runner. Improved discipline a tribute to enlightened self-control. 8

James Lowe (Leinster) Age: 30 Caps: 19

Still prone to rare error but only because he attempts feats few others might envision; like his opposite wing, a stunning finisher of chances which seem beyond human endeavour. A rough diamond now sparkling. 9

Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) Age: 37 Caps: 112 caps (c)

History beckons for the durable captain but a Grand Slam triumph will only offer a sense of an ending. A World Cup proffers a final beginning for the player who sets standards so many now follow. Will break Ronan O’Gara’s 557 championship points record today. 9

Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) Age: 31 Caps: 24

Pattern-changing half-back who has spurned the competition and can adapt to the exigencies of a test match as it acquires different dimensions and demands. Despite repeated hamstring injuries this term, is fighting fit now and impacted strongly off bench in Murrayfield. 8

Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) Age: 26 Caps: 52

Has reined in the edgy style which had produced far too many penalties without restricting his abrasiveness in contact; not a dominant scrum presence as exposure against Scotland again showed but learns on the hoof. Produces big plays, in attack v France and with try-saving tackle last week. 8

Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) Age: 24 Caps: 16

Recovers from a shoulder issue to play and will hope to maintain his blemish-free record in the current championship, as he currently leads the throw-in charts, with a record of 22 wins from 22 darts. 8

Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) Age: 30 Caps: 64

Like Henshaw, another latecomer to the putative Grand Slam party and will give the side added energy in what should be a compelling battle against Dan Cole, one which may verge into illegal territory. No better buachaill to navigate the dark shadows. 9

Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) Age: 23 Caps: 10

Probably third-choice given that the two nominated locks ahead of him have been felled during this campaign but as he demonstrated against Italy in particular, he is unfazed by the big occasion. A powerful carrier, immense tackler, his ball work has massively improved too. 7

James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) Age: 26 Caps: 52

That he is perhaps an understated performer in this campaign may be a tribute to a level of heightened excellence he freights to every single moment; that he can be a gambolling try-scoring threat late on reflects his incredible energy. 9

Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) Age: 33 Caps: 93

Thriving in a comforting environment, O’Mahony is indisputably one of the key components of the back-row; dominated proceedings as colleagues departed the fray last week, tackling dominantly and providing surety from touch. 9

Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) Age: 29 Caps: 49

Now a supreme dartist to add to his artistry in the back-row; despite being shoe-horned into emergency duties last weekend, he didn’t neglect his primary duties, completing a team-high 18 tackles. Landmark half-century awaits. Another will surely follow in time. 9

Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) Age: 24 Caps: 27

Who really doubted that the warrior would not return to write the final chapter on 18 months of remarkable personal growth? There is realty no debate about who is the world’s best in this position. Brutish in carry and tackle, he can deliver subtly beautiful off-loads for good measure. 9


Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) Age: 32 Caps: 33

Despite the potential absence of Leinster’s leading lights, Ireland would have lost little with the Ulster man in tow. There will be no diminution of the set-piece when he is introduced. 7

Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) Age: 35 Caps: 122

Remarkable to think that a stroke of a pen on holiday almost consigned his career to the history books, where he would have resided with much accomplishments to his name. But now he seeks much more, in whatever position required. 8

Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) Age: 24 Caps: 8

Bountiful impact earlier in the championship indicates that despite Finlay Bealham’s curtailed season hasn’t damaged Ireland as much as might have been expected. 7

Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) Age: 27 Caps: 10

With all that is happening at the ultimate level of Irish rugby, it must be recalled that the relatively unsung Ulster lock was a heroic presence on last summer’s historic summer tour, featuring in all five games. Involved in a competitive area and will make presence felt. 7

Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) Age: 30 Caps: 37

Despite playing only 168 minutes in this campaign due to his Leinster colleague’s untrammelled eminence, Conan lies third in a rank of all championship players when rated for carries per minute. Strong finish for try last weekend a reflection of his strength. 8

Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) Age: 33 Caps: 104

Has responded superlatively to suspicions that the pursuit of all-court games at club and country level could house his supposedly out-dated skills; it only confirmed that the game he was being asked to play was out-dated. 9

Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) Age: 27 Caps: 18

Perhaps not yet a competent starter, as the difficult circumstances in Rome, not all of his own making, confirmed; but he is a calmly re-assuring presence if required to come on and steer a side home. 8

Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster/Naas) Age: 26 Caps: 4

Despite his relative inexperience, Andy Farrell has already earmarked the Leinster man to fulfil the duties of a utility back reserve at the World Cup, a move which suits his skill-set, as well as affording flexibility in squad selection elsewhere. 7

Head coach

Andy Farrell

A true democratic coach, the excellent technical qualities with which he surrounds himself are suffused with a lightness of touch which only demands severity when genuine lack of honesty or effort prevails. Because the squad admire him so much, this rarely happens. 9

TOTAL: 199


Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers) Age: 22 Caps: 21

They call him the Air Steward across the water but the Tiger was becalmed against France; form has fallen off a cliff but retains an attacking threat should his side raise a gallop. 8

Anthony Watson (Leicester Tigers) Age: 29 Caps: 54

Horrible injury run has hampered the two-time Lion who has the potential to produce something special. Needs to produce it on this occasion. 7

Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) Age: 29 Caps: 55

A player who was fatally undermined by the pernicious influence of Steve Borthwick’s predecessor; Slade is a gifted outside back but has rarely been granted a defining role in a key position. 7

Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks) Age: 31 Caps: 50

Has never lost to Ireland and this 10-12-13 combo masterminded both a 2019 win in Dublin as well as that year’s thumping quarter-final win against Australia. That they reunite four years later tells its own tale. 7

Henry Arundell (London Irish) Age: 20 Caps: 6

A potentially devastating weapon developed by a former Ireland Grand Slam coaching duo at London Irish, Declan Kidney and Les Kiss. But will he get the ball to show the blistering, slaloming pace that produced a summer debut try against Australia? First ever test start in only 21st pro game. 7

Owen Farrell (Saracens) Age: 31 Caps: 105

After Marcus Smith imploded against France, with no help from his colleagues, the son of the Irish coach is restored to add some semblance of hard edge and nous. Can only thrive if pack achieve parity. 8

Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers) Age: 21 Caps: 11

Borthwick has invested more faith in his former club charge than the impatient Jones but he has not yet developed the rounded game a scrum-half at this level requires. A lively presence but the Irish back-row is the most watchful on the scene. 7

Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears) Age: 28 Caps: 47

The baby rhino was a baby whiner in Twickenham last weekend; it was some journey from a council estate to captaining one’s country but he looked all at sea as events conspired to crumble around him. Will be happier doing what he does best. 8

Jamie George (Saracens) Age: 21 Caps: 76

A scourge of Irish teams before with England and Saracens but does not retain anything like the same element of fear factor as heretofore. 7

Kyle Sinckler (Bristol) Age: 29 Caps: 60

Remains a decent scrummager and will be eyeing Porter’s occasional difficulties as a chance to give his side an early advantage should there be an early flurry of set-pieces. 7

Maro Itoje (Saracens) Age: 28 Caps: 66

Should be at the peak of once formidable powers but instead is a poor imitation, not helped by illness and poor husbandry of the game at international level. A pity, as his talent and character are unquestioned. 7

David Ribbans (Northampton Saints) Age: 27 Caps: 4

When Olllie Chessum turned his ankle in Tuesday’s training session, many English supporters turned their stomachs as the resources are thin. Ireland would not swap Ryan Baird, their third-choice, for the eager Saint. 6

Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints) Age: 27 Caps: 18

Ireland will be licking their lips at the breakdown as Ludlam’s work there has been over-rated in recent outings. Capable of causing havoc in the loose and a doughty tackler. 7

Jack Willis (Toulouse) Age: 26 Caps: 9

This guy is a jackal threat and his signing by the French giants reflects the immense promise of a player for whom great things are expected. Will not have confronted a back-row as fearsome as the Irish, however. 8

Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins) Age: 25 Caps 13

Of all the desultory sights in Twickenham, that of a sorry Dombrandt flailing at a tackle attempt from a late French cross-kick on counter-attack summed up their pallid display. Needs a big performance. 7


Jack Walker (Harlequins) Age: 26 Caps: 3

Compared to the luxuries afforded Andy Farrell, England’s depth in the hooking position is miserable; Walker wouldn’t be proficient enough to earn a squad berth in any Irish provincial set-up. 6

Mako Vunipola (Saracens) Age: 32 Caps: 78

Another product of England’s “Reeling in the Years” showreel; the loosehead is nowhere near the force that once wreaked havoc on the world’s best. 6

Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) Age: 26 Caps: 99

Only Jason Leonard, Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell have managed to win 100 caps for the England men’s side; Cole deserves his place in history but soon his place in this side will be history, too. 6

Nick Isiekwe (Saracens) Age: 24 Caps: 8

Performed well when Saracens dominated Europe but suffers when surrounded by a struggling squad such as this one. Few Irish will be awed by his proposed second-half introduction. 6

Ben Curry (Sale Sharks) Age: 24 Caps: 4

An odd season for Tom’s twin. Played against Scotland after two years out. Excluded for Italy. Recalled to training squad. Excluded for Wales before his brother’s injury necessitated a late SOS. Understandably, has failed to fire. 6

Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints) Age 25: Caps: 4

Another element in how these countries are starkly different; Ireland have a vastly experienced Lion on the bench; England, a relatively untested international nine of as yet moderate class. 6

Marcus Smith (Harlequins) Age: 24 Caps: 21

When Owen Farrell was sensationally ejected from the team to face France, the expectation was that Smith would institute an all-singing, all-dancing affair; but an edifice constructed on sand left the gifted play-maker washed out to sea. 7

Joe Marchant (Harlequins) Age: 26 Caps: 14

Another name unlikely to strike fear into Irish hearts. Will bid farewell to English rugby with summer move to France; began the campaign with appalling missed tackle leading to Scottish try and little had happened for since. 6

Head Coach

Steve Borthwick

Intelligent coach will prosper for England at the World Cup – in 2027, not 2023. This is painful transition and it may get worse before it gets better if Ireland can match France last week and emulate a romp similar to 2007. 7

Total – 164

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