Ireland v England: Hosts to keep it close in tight Dublin clash

England forward Maro Itoje
Maro Itoje's late try earned England a victory over France last week

England finish their Six Nations campaign in Ireland this weekend and Simon Mail is expecting a tight affair in Dublin...

"Ireland have selected a strong, experienced team to face England and the hosts, who have won back-to-back away games, look worth backing with a handicap advantage."

Ireland v England
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Ireland looking for third successive win

Ireland and England have failed to challenge for this year's Six Nations but both teams will be aiming to put down a marker with a strong end to the tournament in Dublin this weekend. Andy Farrell's side lost their opening two games against Wales and France to scupper their title hopes. But Ireland have reacted positively with back-to-back wins.

A strong attacking display resulted in Ireland easing to a 48-10 win in Italy in the third round as they scored six tries. Ireland's stranglehold over Scotland continued last weekend as they claimed a 27-24 win at Murrayfield. Tries from Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Beirne, along with 17 points from fly-half Johnny Sexton, secured a deserved victory for the visitors.

Jacob Stockdale has been named in Ireland's team as he replaces James Lowe after proving his fitness. Scrum-half Conor Murray also returns to the side, after being left on the bench last weekend after recovering from a hamstring injury, while Bundee Aki is selected. Aki replaces Robbie Henshaw and CJ Stander is selected at blindside flanker for his final home game after announcing his retirement.

England lifted by France victory

England have received plenty of criticism for their performances and results during the Six Nations but Eddie Jones' side showed what they are capable by ruining France's Grand Slam bid.

Questions were being asked of England's lack of progress after defeats to Scotland and Wales tarnished their title defence.

But England rose to the challenge last weekend against a strong France side to claim a much-needed victory. France led for most of the game but a late Maro Itoje try edged the hosts to a 23-20 win. Anthony Watson scored in the first half and the wing excelled in his 50th game for England as they wore down Fabien Galthie's side.

Jones makes one change to his side with Elliot Daly replacing the injured Henry Slade. It is Daly's first start at outside centre since 2016 after Slade was forced out with a calf injury in training. Harlequins back Joe Marchant is brought on to the bench, with England's forward pack unchanged from the win over France.

farrell france.jpg

England have had the edge in recent meetings between the teams with victories in the last four clashes against Ireland. Perhaps significantly, three of those matches have taken place at Twickenham but playing at an empty Aviva Stadium certainly will not hinder the visitors. Nevertheless, it is expected to be a very tight contest with Ireland handed a four-point head start.

Ireland have selected a strong, experienced team to face England and the hosts, who have won back-to-back away games, look worth backing with a small handicap advantage. England were impressive last week but there is no guarantee they will produce the same level again. Ireland have not lost by more than five points in this year's competition and this came when reduced to 14 men in Wales.

It also looks worth siding with Ireland to convert a penalty with the first score of the match. Two of their last four games have seen Ireland take the lead from a kick and England's lack of discipline has been well documented. Ireland can come out firing and apply the pressure which could easily earn an early shot at the posts at 17/10.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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