Key events



80+2 mins. Isiekwe claims the ball in the middle of the lineout, and the carries start hammering the Ireland line, but the home side are not keen to end with conceding a try and tackle accordingly.

80 mins. Songs ring out in the crowd as England continue to work the ball in the Ireland half, winning a penalty that Farrell kicks to touch in the corner.

79 mins. England go from a lineout on halfway, putting it through hands as the time ebbs away.

78 mins. 90 seconds to glory for Ireland.

TRY! Ireland 29 – 16 England (Rob Herring)

77 mins. Herring peels off the maul to dive over in the corner to score against thirteen men.

Ross Byrne misses a difficult conversion from out wide.

Ireland's Rob Herring scores their fourth try.
Ireland’s Rob Herring scores their fourth try. Photograph: James Crombie/INPHO/Shutterstock

YELLOW CARD! Jack Willis

75 mins. The TMO draws Ref Peyper’s attention to Jack Willis lifting Ross Byrne beyond the horizontal. He really lifts him quite high, but lands him on his back, not particularly hard, so it’s a yellow.

74 mins. Jamison Gibson-Park and Johnny Sexton leave the field for Conor Murray and Ross Byrne.

Sexton limps off to standing ovation in what many assume is his last Six Nations match at the home of Irish rugby.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton goes off injured.
Ireland’s Johnny Sexton goes off injured. Photograph: James Crombie/INPHO/Shutterstock

TRY! Ireland 24 – 16 England (Jamie George)

72 mins. The Fields Of Athenry is ringing around the stadium as the home fans finally start to relax and truly believe. But England aren’t lying down for it as they catch and drive a maul over the line for George to dab it down.

England's Jamie George dives in to score his side’s first try.
England’s Jamie George dives in to score his side’s first try. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Farrell converts.

That’s Dan Sheehan’s final act of a very good game for him, replaced by Rob Herring.

Alex Mitchell has replaced Van Poortvliet for England.

TRY! Ireland 24 – 9 England (Dan Sheehan)

69 mins. Ireland work the short-side via Mack Hansen who feeds Dan Sheehan who is lurking on the right touchline. He’s stopped, but on the next phase he’s up to take an offload from Conan to run over in the corner.

Ireland's Dan Sheehan scores their third try despite the challenge of England’s Dan Cole.
Ireland’s Dan Sheehan scores their third try despite the challenge of England’s Dan Cole. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/INPHO/Shutterstock

Sexton booms the conversion over.

Beyond penalties for breakdown pressure, England haven’t looked like scoring all game, this feels a long way back now for the visitors.

Genge and Sincker are off, replaced by Mako Vunipola and Dan Cole.

Jack Willis returns from his blood bin, and that’s a cue for Dombrand to leave the field to officially be replaced by Ben Curry.

TRY! Ireland 17 – 9 England (Robbie Henshaw)

62 mins. Playing on an advantage from the scrum, Ireland go to Aki who sucks in two defenders and feeds a short pass right to Henshaw to dive over.

Robbie Henshaw of Ireland celebrates scoring their side's second try.
Robbie Henshaw of Ireland celebrates scoring their side’s second try. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Sexton bends the conversion over.

60 mins. Sexton sprays a kick in behind Watson, who is hounded over his own line by Hansen and tackled to give Ireland a huge five metre scrum platform, assuming they can manage to hold it up!

Joe Marchant comes on for Henry Arundell, who’s had a difficult game.

Tom O’Toole replaces Tadhg Furlong for Ireland.

57 mins. Ireland snaffle the ball from England’s lineout maul to save Sexton’s blushes, with Gibson-Park breaking up the field. The ball ends up in touch and the teams set to with some pushing and shoving, which adds even more to the tension and drama.

England's Maro Itoje surrounded by the Ireland team in a maul.
England’s Maro Itoje surrounded by the Ireland team in a maul. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock

When it all settles down it’s an England scrum and they win another penalty as Porter collapses.

Jack Conan is on for Peter O’Mahony

55 mins. The ball is spending a lot of time in the air, as both sides look to kick and it’s England who are winning the battle so far. The latest deep kick from Farrell has Johnny Sexton shanking one into touch for not many metres, as even the most experience mad on the park starts to tighten up with the weight of expectation.

PENALTY! Ireland 10 – 9 England (Owen Farrell)

50 mins. England put the Irish front row under pressure and it goes down to give England a penalty amidst a chorus of orgamo-squeals from the English pack.

Jamie George celebrates after England are awarded a penalty.
Jamie George celebrates after England are awarded a penalty. Photograph: Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection/Getty Images
Ben Curry, centre, and Jack van Poortvliet of England celebrate a penalty as Josh van der Flier of Ireland reacts.
As do Ben Curry (centre) and Jack van Poortvliet. Photograph: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile/Getty Images

Farrell hammers it through the posts to cause more twitching among the Irish players and fans

48 mins. Owen Farrell decides Ireland can have some of their own medicine and that it’s time to test how good O’Brien is under the high ball. The answer from this example is “not great” as the replacement Ireland fullback bounces the ball off himself to give England a scrum in the Irish half.

45 mins. Unsurprisingly, Ireland appear to now have a clear tactic to kick to where Steward would have been to see how well England cover their backfield now. The latest boot from Sexton is comfortably marked by Watson, however.

43 mins. Ireland start brightly and on kick return Gibson-Park escapes a tackle on the left touchline, bears down on Watson and chips it over to chase, but can only watch the ball roll into touch in the England 22.

Second Half!

Sexton kicks the restart deep.

Hugo Keenan is off after the head contact and Jimmy O’Brien is on. That’s a big loss for Ireland.

Away from the red card, Ireland were looking stronger in the last quarter, so it was already going to be a challenge for England in the second forty. It will be doubly difficult now.

“I feel for him.” says Sam Herbert on the Steward red, “He saw that the Ireland player had knocked it on, didn’t want to make a tackle with the player not having the ball as he would give a penalty away so tries to avoid it. Obviously there’s no way he can so he gets sent off. No common sense anymore from refs.”

I think if he’d kep his chest open, shown he wasn’t trying a tackle and soaked he contact then the ref would’ve called it as a rugby incident.

Ultimately he chose to move his shoulder towards a player moving towards him, which for me is not consistent with pulling out of contact; Steward basically made it a more dangerous contact.


40+4 mins. Sexton want to turn the screw with the clock in the red and England a man down. The have multiple carries for the line from the lineout, but the white defence throws everything at them and eventually force a knock-on to end the half.

RED CARD! Freddie Steward

4o+2 mins. He’s off! Steward said “I had no time to correct”, but his technique was wrong from the start really, and that’s the risk you take these days.

40 mins. It’s starting to look better for Ireland in attack and slowly more ominous for England. The backs run a lovely pattern on the blind side, all angles and late passes that has Hansen off his wing and one offload away from putting Keenan away, but the winger lobs it forward.

As Keenan tried to grab it, Steward jumped into him shoulder first, hit him in the head and he’ll be given a red here.

Hugo Keenan of Ireland goes down after a tackle by Freddie Steward of England, resulting in a red card for Freddie Steward.
Hugo Keenan of Ireland goes down after a tackle by Freddie Steward of England. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile/Getty Images

37 mins. England switch the attack left from a scrum to Arundell, but Hansen and Aki grip him, hold him up and win a choke-tackle scrum. That change of attack was very well contained by the Irish defence.

That feels like a big moment as Ireland have been slowly growing into this match, and moving ahead for the first time just before halfway feels important.

TRY! Ireland 10 – 6 England (Dan Sheehan)

33 mins. From the lineout, Van Der Flier runs off the back of the maul and pops it inside to Sheehan on the arc from the same maul for the hooker to turn on his rapid pace to drive to the line and through some tackles to score.

Sexton adds two.

Ireland’s Dan Sheehan runs in score his side’s first try.
Ireland’s Dan Sheehan surges towards the England tryline … Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
Dan Sheehan of Ireland scores his side’s first try despite the tackle of England’s Manu Tuilagi (left) and Jack van Poortvliet.
And goes over despite the efforts of England’s Manu Tuilagi (left) and Jack van Poortvliet. Photograph: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile/Getty Images
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton celebrates after Dan Sheehan’s try.
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton celebrates after Sheehan’s try. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile/Getty Images
Ireland fans celebrate as Dan Sheehan scores their first try.
As do the Ireland fans. Photograph: James Crombie/INPHO/Shutterstock

31 mins. A scrappy lineout from England puts Van Poortvliet in all sorts of trouble close to the touchline around halfway, but the young none does well to hold his nerve long enough for his support to arrive. But Ireland soon have it and the vistors are offside in defence and Sexton puts his side into the England 22 for a lineout of their own.

28 mins. More possession for Ireland inches them forward in the England half, but again the visitors are flying up in the tackle line to ruin the usually impeccable timing of Mike Catt’s green attack. The latest burst of pressure in midfield forces Doris to knock on.

25 mins. Hansen decides enough is enough and slaloms past the England kick chase and his runs it from his own 22. Ireland then work the ball around halfway, but the white defence has regrouped meaning a kick is the right option. But it’s been spotted that Sexton was walloped off the ball by Dombrandt – penalty Ireland.

23 mins. It’s England’s turn to have some efficient phases, that Ireland repel with some aggression until the visitors are penalised for holding on. Proper big lad pants stuff this game, so far.

20 mins. The home side look neat and tidy in attack, but not exactly threatening, mainly due to England getting up in their grill and ruining their momentum. The ball goes to ground and is hacked behind Keenan, who pulls a kick horribly into touch in his own 22.

Keenan is usually furiously solid and classy; if his basics arecracking then that is terrible portent for Ireland.

PENALTY! Ireland 3 – 6 England (Johnny Sexton)

18 mins. Ireland’s next possession has Sinckler infringing at the breakdown, so Sexton tees it up and slots it to get his side on the board and also surpass Ronan O’Gara to become the highest points scorer in Six Nations history.

Some career.

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty.
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty. Photograph: Donall Farmer/PA
Ireland's Johnny Sexton kicks a penalty to become the all-time leading scorer in the Guinness Six Nations Championship.
A lovely view of the Aviva Stadium and Dublin as Ireland’s Johnny Sexton kicks a penalty to become the all-time leading scorer in the Six Nations Championship. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock

17 mins. England make a mess of a short Sexton restart and this allows Ireland to run a pattern to free Keenan on an angle in midfield, but a pincer movement from Steward and Van Poortvliet stops him in backfield. The Irish attack tries to capitalise on the territory, but the early occasional imprecision from the home team creeps in once more and the attack brakes down.

PENALTY! Ireland 0 – 6 England (Owen Farrell)

14 mins. Andrew Porter hits Sinckler early in the lineout, giving a penalty to England and Farrell wastes no time in doubling his side’s lead with the boot.

England's Owen Farrell kicks a penalty.
England’s Owen Farrell thacks a penalty between the sticks. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP

11 mins. Ireland are direct from the lineout, with Van Der Flier almost all the way through to the line after he finds a gap. He is stopped by Steward and a few phases later the ball spills, but George is penalised for crawling on the floor with the ball he gathered.

Sexton quick taps and goes for the line, but he’s held up by Dombrandt and England can clear the ball with a drop-out.

9 mins. A period of kicking from the backfield comes to an end as Arundell has a run with it and is clamped on by Porter. The England winger doesn’t release it and Sexton sets up a lineout on the England 22.

PENALTY! Ireland 0 – 3 England (Owen Farrell)

7 mins. Double figures of phases from England works them up into the Irish 22, and already the visitors are unrecognisable from the side that was tonked last week. They put some pressure on the Irish defence with their recycling, and the home defence is offside.

Farrell calls for the tee and puts his team in front. A solid, settling few minutes from England.

4 mins. Ireland have most of the ball early on, working their usual organised phases until Willis nabs the ball at the breakdown. Nothing comes of the turnover possession, though, as a Itoje is subsequently too eager at the breakdown and is pinged for offside.

Josh van der Flier of Ireland is tackled by Jack Willis of England.
Josh van der Flier of Ireland is tackled by Jack Willis of England. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

2 mins. Solid kick-off exit from Ireland leads to a few kicks back and forth before Gibson-Park is taken out in the air and Sexton booms the ball into touch in England territory.

Kick Off!

Owen Farrell kicks the main event into life.

“Ireland’s Call” is absolutely deafening from the crowd, and we’re minutes away from kick-off…

@bloodandmud Grand Slam on the line, Sexton’s last 6N’s game St Patrick’s weekend Holy Mother of Sweet Lanterin Jaysus & The Old Enemy in Dublin. What’s not to like? Manu Genge Itoje & Farrell they’ll give us a few nervy moments but we should have enough to get the Slam.

— John McEnerney (@MackerOnTheMed) March 18, 2023

Grand Slam number four for Ireland, their first since 2009, awaits them in the next couple of hours.

Standing in their way is an England team that absolutely nobody fancies, but Owen Farrell and his side won’t care about that, this is a one-off test match to put down a marker for the rest of the year.

The teams have made their way onto the field in a lovely Dublin evening. A bit breezy, perhaps, but other than that it looks perfect out there.

England and Ireland line up for the national anthems.
England and Ireland line up for the national anthems. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Pre match random reading

Joe Biden is all over Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes, read more about it here

Can anything prevent an Ireland Grand Slam? Give me your thoughts on that and much beside on the email or tweet @bloodandmud


Andy Farrell has made three changes driven by a mix of injury or preference. Robbie Henshaw returns to the centre, replacing the injured Garry Ringrose; while Jamison Gibson-Park and Ryan Baird are in at scrum half and lock respectively.

Return of the Manu is on for England, as well as exciting winger Henry Arundell getting a start and Owen Farrell back in the 10 shirt to conduct matters. In the forwards, Dave Ribbans is given a starting berth alongside Itoje in the second row.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Ryan Baird, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien.

England: Freddie Steward; Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Arundell; Owen Farrell (captain), Jack van Poortvliet; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, David Ribbans, Lewis Ludlam, Jack Willis, Alex Dombrandt.

Replacements: Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, Joe Marchant


When asked about Ireland winning a Grand Slam, St Patrick apparently replied, “I love owt like that, me”.

On this his feast weekend, he won’t be the only one experiencing that overwhelming emotion if his patron nation bring home the biggest of cups to put the top hat on an incredible twelve months.

All form, results and evidence point to this being the case in a few hours, but England and Steve Borthwick will not fancy being the lambs to be slaughtered for the celebration stew. But, can the visitors do anything to avoid what many are predicting to be a procession for Andy Farrell’s impressive team?

Borthwick and co would do well to look back to 2019, when a largely unfancied team rocked up to the Aviva Stadium and blew the doors off from the start to claim a stunning victory. Key that day were strong performances from Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade, who are reunited in midfield this afternoon. Tuilagi is not the player he was, both in terms of size or form, but like many England coaches before him Borthwick has returned to the big centre on the promise that a game breaking performance like 2019 is still in there somewhere.

It’s a bit of a stretch, unlike Ireland securing the Grand Slam, which feels like a short and easy step.

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