The breakdown: Five ways Ireland must plan to beat England

Dublin has never seen Ireland secure a Grand Slam in its fair city but that could all change this weekend.

Dublin has never seen Ireland secure a Grand Slam in its fair city but that could all change this weekend.

That is one of a host of records which could tumble on Super Saturday if Ireland wrap up a clean sweep against wounded England.

Andy Farrell’s all-conquering side are bidding to win the Championship on home soil for the first time since 1985 on the day which could see Johnny Sexton become the Guinness Six Nations’ highest-ever points scorer in his final Championship game at Aviva Stadium.

Opponents England, meanwhile, have a point to prove. After a debilitating 53-10 defeat to France, they will want to set the record straight and could be tricky opposition fuelled by a cocktail of pride and possible redemption.

France have shown how England can be taken apart – here is how Ireland can repeat the feat on one of the biggest days in their history.

Prey on English nerves

After their beating by Les Bleus, England will want to make sure they are not on the receiving end of another heavy loss.

Worryingly for England, history suggests a difficult day is on the cards. Saturday’s defeat at Twickenham was the third heaviest and the two which were worse failed to spark an immediate response.

Having lost 76-0 to Australia in 1998, England were outscored by 42 points against New Zealand two weeks later and, after a 58-10 defeat to South Africa nine years on, were on the wrong side of a 33-point reverse to the Springboks the following week.

With that in mind, the first five minutes will be crucial from an English perspective – they will be desperate to establish a foothold in the tie, something they were unable to do in Round 4 after conceding inside two minutes.

Unsurprisingly, scoring first has proved to be a recipe for success in this year’s Championship. Of the 12 matches played so far, only one has been lost by the team scoring the first try.

If Ireland can put some early points on the board, then England could well be at their mercy.

Exploit uncertainty and lack of pace in wide channels

England are set to shake up their backline, but the defensive structure will remain the same and France showed how that can be exploited.

In fact, more changes in personnel could yet play into Ireland’s hands, with English defenders second guessing each other.

For France’s first try against England, they masterfully sucked in centres Henry Slade and Ollie Lawrence, creating space on the outside for Thibaud Flament and then Ethan Dumortier to make ground.

While England’s back three of Freddie Steward, Anthony Watson and Max Malins are all undeniably talented players, they are not the speediest.

Ireland’s backs and even their forwards will feel they can manipulate England’s backfield trio before freeing their arms in the tackle to find unattended support runners.

Expect Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan to be the instigators of this tactic and to pop up on the flanks, as replacement Conan did to great effect against Scotland, scoring the game’s final try.

Set-piece savvy and aggressive ball-carrying

It goes without saying that Ireland must first earn the right to play by doing the bread and butter work up front.

The return of a fit and healthy hooker who can throw the ball will naturally help here, although Cian Healy and Van der Flier were effective enough when asked to share the responsibilities of a No.2 at BT Murrayfield.

One of England’s strengths has been their scrummaging. Amid the chaos of the France defeat they did not once surrender possession on their own scrum or line out.

Conceding nine penalties in France’s half alone meant they were slightly limited in what they could do with the ball, but Ireland are sure to have a plan to unsettle England at the set piece.

Chief-spoiler James Ryan will have a big role to play, topping the charts for lineout steals in the Championship with four ahead of the final weekend.

By contrast England’s tackling was an area of concern against France with 26 attempts missed. It continues to be a problem area and if Ireland can get the ball to the likes of Bundee Aki in space, then they should prosper.

Let the boy’s play

Ireland are world number one for a reason.

Some of their scores so far this campaign have been simply sublime – whether that be Hugo Keenan’s touchdown against France, Aki’s corner score in Rome or Mack Hansen’s superb finish at BT Murrayfield.

When the pressure builds there is a temptation to try and force a way through, but Ireland need not stress. They are in this position as a result of their consistent brilliance.

Manage the occasion

Cooler heads always prevail.

With a fanfare expected before kick-off on St. Patrick’s weekend and the departing Sexton likely to be the centre of attention, there will be no shortage of distractions.

Ireland are so used to winning Slams and Championships away from an expectant home support.

Managing expectations is a newer challenge – it is one they have dealt with so well until now and there is just one final hurdle left to clear.