Standard Sport’s Matt Majendie at Twickenham
It’s a glorious spring afternoon at Twickenham with the sun shining as both Ireland and England players are put through their paces in the pre-match warm-up.
Marcus Smith is currently trying his hand at drop kicks.
Scotland back to winning ways in Rome
The final whistle has just sounded in Rome, where Scotland have beaten Italy 33-22 at the Stadio Olimpico.
The visitors got two tries from Chris Harris as well as scores from Stuart Hogg, Sam Johnson and Darcy Graham to wrap up a deserved bonus point.
Gloucester’s Callum Braley crossed in the first half for Italy, while Ange Capuozzo notched two late tries on his senior international debut in an entertaining finish.
Scotland are up to fourth after bouncing back from two consecutive defeats to register their second win of the championship, while Italy remain bottom on zero points.
They remain without a Six Nations win since 2015 and have now lost their last 36 matches in a row in the competition.
Curry: England only growing more resilient after more disrupted prep
It’s not been the smoothest of preparations again for England this week with positive Covid tests from the likes of Alex Dombrandt, Louis Lynagh and most recently forwards coach Richard Cockerill, who will be absent from Twickenham today.
Add to that Itoje’s illness and a knock for Kyle Sinckler, it’s been a difficult few days in the build-up to the visit of Ireland.
However, the fit-again Tom Curry believes England are only becoming more resilient.
“It’s the normal now isn’t it! I think as a team, we are probably the best prepared in so far as abnormal things happening like that,” he said.
“Obviously, it’s not 100 per cent, but I think as a team we grow from that. People stepping in, people stepping up and taking control of those situations.
“It is what it is at the end of the day. As we have probably had in previous tournaments, we are developing that resilience. Whether that is practicing different combinations or being more player-driven with line-outs or set plays. It all feeds into that ability to be resilient.
“All that matters is that tomorrow come kick-off we are ready to go and we start fast. I think training has been good. We have learnt a lot about ourselves this week and how we want to be.
“I think that is brilliant leading into a Test match. It is never going to be perfect for 80 minutes and we have just got to make sure that we keep pushing and progressing throughout the game.
“I think that, in terms of levels where we are at as a team, that’s kind of a barometer for us and I think we are learning a lot.
“Tomorrow is no different and we are looking to put in a good performance as always. There is a real build of excitement, especially as this tournament progresses. Hopefully it all goes out in terms of 80 minutes on Saturday.”
Not the last time these two will become acquainted this afternoon, I’m sure…
Jones focusing on progress but Ireland clash could be defining moment in rebuild
Eddie Jones and England find themselves on the brink of yet another pivotal moment.
Lose to Ireland at Twickenham and they face a second successive fifth place in the Six Nations with a trip to Paris next week to take on a potentially Grand Slam-chasing France.
Jones has already partially used the build-up to this weekend to prepare himself and his players for a fall.
Should it be a second defeat of this Six Nations in just four matches, England’s head coach said he was still confident England are “making good progress, we are still developing as a team and we will learn from that. We don’t need to worry about that at this stage”.
But back-to-back fifth places 18 months out from the World Cup would be an uncomfortable position for Jones and his players.
Click here to read Matt Majendie’s preview in full
The flag of Ukraine flying high above the Twickenham scoreboard this afternoon.
There will be a show of solidarity from both sets of players and fans ahead of kick-off.
Breaking: Itoje declared fit to start for England
Confirmation from England now that Maro Itoje IS fit to start this afternoon as expected after a bout of illness.
Saracens team-mate Nick Isiekwe has been on standby, with Ollie Chessum also in the squad and Joe Launchbury on the bench.
Huge crowds greet the England squad at a sunny Twickenham this afternoon…
Dallaglio column: England must be quick and merciless or Sexton will run show
It is some time since England were not favourites for a home Six Nations match. But, against Ireland tomorrow, that is the position they find themselves in.
Eddie Jones, with a bit of irritation in his voice, has spent all week saying it. I haven’t spoken to anyone who does not think Ireland are favourites, and the stats bear it out. They have won 10 of their past 11 matches, with the loss coming in Paris without their captain Johnny Sexton. That run includes beating the All Blacks.
These days, Ireland are a real force in the global game, and this rivalry is as real and relevant as it has ever been. They have always been dangerous, but when I played, Ireland did not have the consistency they have developed in recent years, when they have won Grand Slams and titles. Ireland are as good as they have ever been.
The conversation in the northern hemisphere was once about France, England and who else? Wales under Warren Gatland won titles, Ireland have well and truly joined that group and, right now, England are struggling to keep up.
You look at the two teams, and they are a long way apart in terms of their overall development between World Cups, and particularly their attacking game. Two-thirds of Ireland’s side play week in, week out at Leinster.
Click here to read Lawrence Dallaglio’s pre-match column in full
- 1 Standard Sport’s Matt Majendie at Twickenham
- 2 Scotland back to winning ways in Rome
- 3 Curry: England only growing more resilient after more disrupted prep
- 4 Jones focusing on progress but Ireland clash could be defining moment in rebuild
- 5 Breaking: Itoje declared fit to start for England
- 6 Dallaglio column: England must be quick and merciless or Sexton will run show