Ireland v England: Winners and losers from the team announcements for the final round of the Six Nations
The final Six Nations round finishes with Ireland taking on England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday in what promises to be a thrilling game.
With their teams having been named on Thursday, we pick out our winners and losers from the selections made by Andy Farrell and Steve Borthwick.
What a story it would be for Henshaw to cap his comeback start with a Grand Slam success after such a difficult and frustrating spell out of the game.
He made his return via the bench last week in Scotland but with Garry Ringrose ruled out, Henshaw is in from the off against England this weekend.
Such a talented and physical specimen, Ireland will be happy to have such a handy replacement for Ringrose and will hope he comes through unscathed.
Another player who’s worked his way back from injury this Six Nations, Gibson-Park does the same as Henshaw as he receives the nod as a starter.
The Leinster back comes in for Conor Murray for the Grand Slam fixture, with the latter having accomplished himself well in Gibson-Park’s absence.
But Gibson-Park has been one of a number of key elements to Ireland‘s rise to the top of the world game and he’ll be delighted to start this weekend.
New bench trio
To be a part of something special like a Grand Slam is something players dream of and few get to experience it, which makes selection in a 23 priceless.
Jimmy O’Brien, Kieran Treadwell and Rob Herring are given that opportunity in Dublin following injuries and all three will be buzzing to get involved.
It is likely all three will feature in the game at different stages in the second period, especially if Ireland are comfortable, and then the party starts.
Josh van der Flier
The World Rugby Player of the Year took his game to new levels last week when he showed his line-out throwing skills in the absence of two hookers.
It’s just another string to the bow of Van der Flier and in Dublin he will receive a warm welcome when he leads out Ireland on his 50th Test fixture.
What an incredible player he’s become in the green shirt since making his bow in 2016. So consistent and high quality, this milestone is well deserved.
Cabin crew: “Ladies and gentleman, this is an emergency. Is there anybody on board who can fly this plane?”
Josh Van Der Flier: *stands up wearily*#SCOvIRE #6Nations
— Shane Hegarty (@shanehegarty) March 12, 2023
It seemed likely Tuilagi would come into the team following the injury to Ollie Lawrence, but what centre jersey was the stumbling block for supporters.
Ultimately, the Sale Sharks player received the nod at 12 and will hope his record of six wins out of six against Ireland thus far continues this weekend.
His inclusion coincides with Henry Slade being retained and in many people’s eyes he’s lucky to keep his place, so is another winner from the selection.
England desperately need a box office moment to help inspire them to what would be a surprise win and in wing Arundell they have X-factor aplenty.
His inclusion out wide has been met with excitement as England fans know what he can do on the big stage – the try against Australia springs to mind.
From one big selection call to another, Farrell returns to the starting side after spending last week’s early stages against France warming the bench.
He impressed alongside Alex Mitchell when coming on at Twickenham and England will need his leadership if they’re to keep in touch with Ireland.
In the pack the inclusion of Ribbans comes following the crushing news that Ollie Chessum suffered a fracture dislocation to his left ankle at training.
Chessum unfortunately requires surgery but that opens the door to Ribbans, who will be desperate to press his claims for a long-term spot in the squad.
We wish @olliechessum a speedy recovery. Get well soon 🌹 pic.twitter.com/YGIjLy2qwt
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) March 16, 2023
While Van der Flier is set to get his moment on the field before kick-off for Ireland, Cole should get similar treatment as this is his 100th Test run-out.
What an impressive comeback it has been from the Leicester stalwart as he has evolved his game in recent years which, for an ageing prop, is admirable.
One of the more unlucky players to miss the cut this week is McCloskey, who cannot question if his form has been good enough to make the Irish side.
When given chances under Farrell, McCloskey has delivered for the cause but such are the riches in Ireland’s midfield, there is no room for the centre.
We didn’t feel he gave a poor account of himself against France – any fly-half would struggle in those circumstances – but Smith was dropped for Dublin.
The exciting pivot will hope to make an impact off the bench on Saturday but with George Ford in the periphery, one wonders if chances are running out.
Marcus Smith pays the price for the English pack getting beaten up whilst none of them get dropped. Very strange selection
— Graham Binns (@Binnsey22) March 16, 2023
Arundell’s inclusion sees Malins miss out but to not make the matchday 23 this weekend will be a hard pill to swallow for the versatile back three player.
Malins has two tries this Six Nations but both of those came in the opening game against Scotland, with his form taking something of a nose dive since.
He’ll hope to work his way back into the set-up with some strong performances for his club in the season run-in but it feels a big ask after this dropping.
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