Ireland close out the Six Nations with a win over England

Ireland Six Nations Squad 2021

Ireland ended their 2021 Six Nations campaign on a high with a comfortable 32-18 victory over England at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

An early try from Keith Earls set Ireland on their way and Jack Conan added another before half-time, while captain Johnny Sexton kicked 22 points to give the retiring CJ Stander a perfect send-off in his final Test in green.

Related: Keith Earls try sparks Ireland rout of England

Ireland team to play England – Saturday 20 March

Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Jonathan Sexton (capt), Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Jamison Gibson Park, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jordan Larmour.

RUGBY WORLD VERDICT

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton start together at half-back for the first time since round one in Cardiff, writes Alan Pearey.

Those with good memories will recall that the last time they wore nine and ten against England – at Twickenham 13 months ago – they both had strikingly poor games. Sexton’s fumble gifted an early try to George Ford in that match. It helped to precipitate talk that his and Murray’s international days were numbered.

A year on, any decline is hard to spot from where we’re sitting. At 35, Sexton (98 caps) looks as irrepressible as ever and he has been nigh-on perfect off the kicking tee. Murray (88 caps) is no longer the shoo-in that he once was but you would bet on him making the Lions squad, alongside his skipper, this summer. Perhaps with a couple of Welsh scrum-halves.

There is still no one better than Murray at hoisting a box kick into the Dublin sky and England have picked Elliot Daly in midfield in large part to provide an extra high-ball fielder.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton

Still got it! Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray, steering the ship again for Ireland (Sportsfile/Getty)

There are six personnel changes to the starting XV, when only two were essential. We admire Andy Farrell’s willingness to alter a winning side. Jacob Stockdale has an opportunity to seize back the shirt from James Lowe, who has been found wanting in his first forays in Test rugby. He is perhaps guilty of trying too hard and will doubtless get another chance.

And after 108 caps, are the sands of time finally beginning to drain for loosehead Cian Healy? “The only prop I know who is under 10% body fat,” said ex-Ireland prop Mike Ross.

That may be so but Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne gets his first home start since 2018 and it’s a wonderful opportunity because he will be up against a top-notch tighthead in Kyle Sinckler. If he can outmuscle Sinckler in the scrum, his status will shoot up.

It is but one of many intriguing individual battles playing out this weekend in front of Warren Gatland, the British & Irish Lions head coach.

Related content: Ireland v England match preview

Ireland team to play Scotland – Sunday 14 March

Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton, Jamison Gibson Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jordan Larmour.

RUGBY WORLD VERDICT

The scrum has been one of the big improvements in Scotland’s game over the past year so it’s little surprise that Andy Farrell has brought back experience in the Ireland front row to try to counter that, writes Sarah Mockford. Tadhg Furlong is still working his way back to top form after a year of injury woe but he and Cian Healy should create a solid foundation at scrum time.

Look out for the two blue scrum caps in the back row, too, as they could prove critical at the breakdown. Tadhg Beirne and Will Connors have both impressed so far this championship, and they will be looking to deny Finn Russell quick ball with which to work his magic.

Ireland team to play Italy – Saturday 27 February

Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton, Jamison Gibson Park; Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Billy Burns, Keith Earls.

Ireland team to play France – Sunday 14 February

Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Billy Burns, Jamison Gibson Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Will Connors, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Jordan Larmour.

Ireland team to play Wales – Sunday 7 February

Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Will Connors, Jamison Gibson Park, Billy Burns, Jordan Larmour.

Ireland Six Nations Squad 2021

Forwards
(DoB/Club/Position/Test debut/caps)
Ryan Baird (26 Jul 1999/Leinster/Lock/2021 v Italy/3)
Finlay Bealham (9 Oct 1991/Connacht/Prop/2016 v Italy/14)
Tadhg Beirne (8 Jan 1992/Munster/Lock and back-row/2018 v Australia/22)
Ed Byrne (9 Sep 1993/Leinster/Prop/2020 v Italy/4)
Jack Conan (29 Jul 1992/Leinster/No.8/2015 v Scotland/20)
Will Connors (4 Apr 1996/Leinster/Back-row/2020 v Italy/9)
Ultan Dillane (9 Nov 1993/Connacht/Lock/2016 v England/18)
Tadhg Furlong (14 Nov 1992/Leinster/Prop/2015 v Wales/49 (3 for Lions))
Cian Healy (7 Oct 1987/Leinster/Prop/2009 v Australia/109)
Dave Heffernan (31 Jan 1991/Connacht/Hooker/2017 v USA/5)
Iain Henderson (21 Feb 1992/Ulster/Lock/2o12 v South Africa/63)
Rob Herring (27 Apr 1990/Ulster/Hooker/2014 v Argentina/21)
Ronan Kelleher (24 Jan 1998/Leinster/Hooker/2020 v Scotland/11)
Dave Kilcoyne (14 Dec 1988/Munster/Prop/2012 v South Africa/43)
Peter O’Mahony (17 Sep 1989/Munster/Back-row/2012 v Italy/75 (+1 for Lions))
Andrew Porter (16 Jan 1996/Leinster/Prop/2017 v USA/37)
Rhys Ruddock (13 Nov 1990/Leinster/Back-row/2010 v Australia/27)
CJ Stander (5 Apr 1990/Munster/Back-row/2016 v Wales/51 (+1 for Lions))
Josh van der Flier (25 Apr 1993/Leinster/Flanker/2016 v Ireland/31)
Backs

Bundee Aki (7 Apr 1990/Connacht/Centre/2017 v South Africa/31)
Billy Burns (13 Jun 1994/Ulster/Fly-half/2020 v Wales/6)
Ross Byrne (8 Apr 1995/Leinster/Fly-half/2018 v Italy/12)
Craig Casey (19 Apr 1999/Munster/Scrum-half/2021 v Italy/1)
Andrew Conway (11 Jul 1991/Munster/Full-back or wing/2017 v England/24)
Keith Earls (2 Oct 1987/Munster/Wing/2008 v Canada/93)
Chris Farrell (16 Mar 1993/Munster/Centre/2017 v Fiji/14)
Jamison Gibson Park (23 Feb 1992/Leinster/Scrum-half/2020 v Italy/9)
Robbie Henshaw (12 Jun 1993/Leinster/2013 v USA/52)
Hugo Keenan (18 Jun 1996/Leinster/Full-back/2020 v Italy/11)
Jordan Larmour (10 Jun 1997/Leinster/Wing/2018 v Italy/29)
James Lowe (8 Jul 1992/Leinster/Wing/2020 v Wales/6)
Stuart McCloskey (6 Aug 1992/Ulster/Centre/2016 v England/4)
Conor Murray (20 Apr 1989/Munster/Scrum-half/2011 v France/89 (+5 for Lions))
Johnny Sexton (11 May 1985/Leinster/Fly-half/2009 v Fiji/99 (+6 for Lions))
Jacob Stockdale (3 Apr 1996/Ulster/Wing or full-back/2017 v USA/34)

Ireland Six Nations Fixtures 2021

(All kick-off times are GMT)

Round 1 

Sun 7 February, Wales 21-16 Ireland Louis Rees-Zammit produces sensational finish

Round 2

Sun 14 February, Ireland 13-15 France France win in Dublin for first time since 2011

Round 3

Sat 27 February, Italy 10-48 Ireland Social media reacts to Iain Henderson try that wasn’t

Round 4

Sun 14 March, Scotland 24-27 Ireland Scotland score comedy try against Ireland

Round 5

Sat 20 March, Ireland 32-18 England Keith Earls try sparks Ireland rout of England

Don’t miss a game with our TV coverage guide

Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.