How they match up: Simon Lewis looks at the key battles


England: The English front row put in a massive shift against France in Paris last Sunday, with tighthead Dan Cole often giving Jean-Baptiste Poux a torrid time and securing two crucial penalties. Loosehead Alex Corbisiero and Nicolas Mas should have been a mismatch in terms of experience but finished an honourable draw while hooker Dylan Hartley was his usual gnarly, snarly self. 4/5

Ireland: Messrs Healy, Best and Ross go to the well one last time this season and face another stiff examination, though they have come out on top, overall, in all of the previous four. The yardstick, though, is how both packs fared against the formidable French in Paris. Ireland had to endure 11 French scrums with only three put-ins and just about held their own but when England played there last Sunday there were just 11 between them and the French were given a hard time. The extra day off this time for Ireland could be invaluable. 4/5


England: Hartley threw well in the France game and locks Mauritz Botha and Geoff Parling held their own but the highlight was the defensive lineout work of flanker Tom Croft who made some brilliant steals, a strength of English lineout play this season and a big threat to Ireland. 3½/5

Ireland: Sitting at home with his knee in a brace, Paul O’Connell will have been more than happy with the leadership shown by Donnacha Ryan, who led the lineout with confidence and authority. Ireland lost two of their own throws but also disrupted an excellent lineout to inflict the first two steals of the championship on the Scots and scored their opening try direct from a five-metre throw to Ryan at the middle and a well-worked move around the front. 4/5


England: Stuart Lancaster’s pack had a habit of giving way soft penalties against the French but overall their ruck work was superb in its intensity, led by flankers, captain Chris Robshaw and Tom Croft. 3½/5

Ireland: Another frustrating afternoon courtesy of the ref’s whistle, with Chris Pollock following Dave Pearson the previous week and tending to favour the defending side rather than the one in possession. However unjust that may was perceived by Ireland, quick and cleanly presented ball is the priority. 3/5


England: Owen Farrell put together some brilliant tactical kicking against the French and he was equally impressive off the tee, despite one shot hitting an upright in front of the posts. A good, all-round kicking display from England backs. 3.5/5

Ireland: Jonny Sexton’s (pictured) game management from fly-half has improved with each game, increasingly showcasing his tactical kicking abilities. A quick-thinking penalty kicked crossfield to Tommy Bowe almost produced a try while there were no costly kicks against Scotland from the Irish backs as there had been against France the previous week. Off the tee, Sexton missed just one from six shots at goal. 3½/5


England: The tries have not come easily to Lancaster’s new-look England and when they have crossed the line it is generally down to strong, direct running rather than expansive flair. A more settled half-back pairing of Lee Dickson and Owen Farrell may see this develop over time but for now England rely on explosive line breaks from their big back row and midfield, aided by strong support running from the likes of full-back Ben Foden, although Chris Ashton is cutting a frustrated figure this season. 3/5

Ireland: Four tries against Scotland last weekend took Ireland’s tally to a championship-leading 13 in four games. The handling errors made in the rain in France were largely eradicated and while the first two tries were scored from close range, Ireland did run in two more and Tommy Bowe was denied another following a clever crossfield kick. 3½/5


England: The English defensive effort in Paris was mighty with players putting making crucial, try-saving tackles. Those last-ditch efforts, though, point to more than a few missed tackles, which will encourage Ireland’s ball carriers. There is also a big emphasis on targetting the 10 channel with tacklers looking to hustle and harry fly-halves, and earning blockdowns in the process that have twice led to game-winning tries. 3½/5

Ireland: The all-out blitz defence deployed by Les Kiss to unsettle France was replaced with a more varied approach against Scotland and proved equally successful, Ireland conceding just one try for the third game in succession. It was another confidence boost for the Irish line, who now face hard-running midfield duo of Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi. 4/5.

Totals: England: 21/30

Ireland: 22/30.

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