Ireland and England both won their opening Six Nations games last weekend and, with France suffering a shock defeat to Italy, Sunday’s clash at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin between these two old foes will surely put one of them in pole position to land this year’s Championship and the Grand Slam – if, of course, it doesn’t finish as a draw.
The boys in green looked on course for a routine victory against Wales last week only for the Red Dragons to come back roaring in the second half and seemingly only run out of time to close down the deficit. The score finished 30-22 to the visitors.
After conceding an early try to Scotland, England cruised to a comfortable 38-18 win and will head to Dublin looking for their third win in a row against Ireland.
In the last two fixtures Ireland have scored exactly nine points with England winning by margins of 11 points and 21 points.
Stuart Lancaster’s men haven’t beaten Declan Kidney’s side in the Six Nations in Ireland since 2003, though.
Overall, Ireland have won seven of the last ten meetings anywhere but Ireland have won only 29 of the 64 matches played on home soil, with the Red Rose winning 31 and the other four draws.
Despite being the second all-time leading points scorers in Six Nations history, Ireland have only lifted the title once in 2009. England have hit the most tries in the competition's history and after France (five) have won the most titles with four.
Ireland continue on their path to Brazil 2014 with a cracking match-up with Germany on Friday. The Emerald Isle opened with a win against Kazakhstan, although it took two very late goals to get the job done in a disappointing performance.
Giovanni Trapattoni knows his players must improve against Germany otherwise their qualification plans could take a big set-back. Some good news for Irish fans is that their side actually boast of a solid record against Germany, which opens up the match supremacy market options.
There was nothing to separate the nations on the last meeting in 2007 as it finished in an uneventful goalless draw. The game before went Germany’s way as Lukas Podolski’s strike sealed the victory. That was Germany’s first win against Ireland across six matches and Ireland won two of those encounters.
The old phrase ‘Luck of the Irish’ certainly rang true in Ireland’s opener with Croatia as Shay Given scored an unfortunate crucial own goal in a 3-1 defeat. Having now played the team most felt are the weakest in the group, Giovanni Trapattoni must now prepare the squad for Spain.
Sean St.Ledger’s goal on Sunday evening was the fifth straight international that Ireland have failed to score more than a goal within 90 minutes. That pattern offers plenty of encouragement for those with an interest in the Ireland Team Goal Rush market. Those past five Irish internationals have the seen the side average only 0.8 goals per game.
Total goal buyers might be put off in knowing that Spain have only scored two goals in their past two games. A lack of a striker cost the favourites against Italy and it remains to be seen if the much-maligned Fernando Torres can do the business in place of David Villa.
Scott Williams’ superb individual try at Twickenham handed Wales a 20th Triple Crown title in an extremely tight contest with England. The 19-12 victory kept Wales’ dream of a Grand Slam alive, although France remain in the running for the ultimate prize this year.
France could say goodbye to their Grand Slam dreams on Sunday as the two sides prepare to meet in Paris. Two weeks ago Ireland’s game in France was postponed due to the freezing weather and Ireland will finally have a chance to end their dismal run against Les Bleus on Sunday.
Ireland have really struggled against Les Bleus recently and last year’s 26-22 loss at Lansdown Road was the fourth straight defeat against Sunday’s opponents. The Emerald Isle last beat the French in 2009 following a 30-21 triumph and that was their first in 12 internationals playing France.
Spread bettors with an interest in the match supremacy market might like to know that the past two France victories have been close affairs. The average winning margin for those two contests stands at 5.5 points.
Ireland will look to banish the memories of their play-off heartache against France when they meet Estonia for a place in the 2012 European Championships next summer. Fans will likely recall their controversial defeat to Les Bleus largely because of Thierry Henry’s handball in the build up to the deciding goal in extra time.
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni will certainly fancy his chances of getting past Estonia over two legs with the first game on Friday evening. These two nations have not met since 2001 and anyone looking to buy the match supremacy will be hoping for more of the same in Tallinn. The Emerald Isle pulled off a comfortable 2-0 win on their last visit to Estonia after goals from Richard Dunne and Matt Holland completed the scoring. Match supremacy buyers will also like to hear that the game before that in Ireland also finished 2-0.
Another point bearing in mind is that Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal for Armenia last time out was the first time that Ireland had conceded a goal for eight internationals.