2023 Ireland vs England - Men's

Ireland Vs. England Preview: World No. 1 Side To Lay Down Marker

Ireland Vs. England Preview: World No. 1 Side To Lay Down Marker

Ireland and England will meet in another test match Aug. 19, and Ireland looks to cement world No. 1 status with a victory ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Aug 18, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Ireland Vs. England Preview: World No. 1 Side To Lay Down Marker

In a rivalry that has seen its fair share of high-profile battles, this weekend’s clash between arch rivals Ireland and England perhaps is the most important clash of this year’s summer internationals. 

The hosts have played just one game so far in their pre-World Cup build-up. 

In that fixture, Andy Farrell’s men rarely had to get out of first gear to see off Italy 33-17, with a side shorn of several front-liners. 

On the flip side, England has played in two contentious fixtures against Wales. Describing the clashes as contentious is perhaps the only way to encapsulate the full story. 

In short, Steve Borthwick’s side has been, at times, trudged and ill-discipline, while also showing glimpses of their potential. 

They've been struggling to maintain consistent front football due in large part to self-inflicted mistakes at crucial moments. No mistakes have been more prevalent than England’s lack of discipline when under pressure. 

Dropping down to 12 players for a sustained period of the second half due to three yellow cards put Borthwick’s men under immense pressure. 

To their credit, England showed remarkable spirit and tenacity to close out the victory, yet it may well have come at an immense cost. 

One of the three yellow cards dished out was to captain Owen Farrell, who was found guilty of putting in an illegal and reckless tackle on Wales backrow Taine Basham. 

The new bunker system quickly upgraded this incident to a red card, putting Farrell’s participation at this year’s Rugby World Cup into doubt. 

Two days later, news broke that shook the Rugby World to its core, when Farrell was cleared of any wrongdoing by a panel of three Australians representing the Six Nations. 

The decision itself faced severe backlash, which has led to World Rugby appealing the decision, once again throwing Farrell’s participation in the game’s global tournament into question. 

Key Match-Up

The pending appeal has taken immediate effect, with Farrell not being selected for this weekend’s fixture. Instead, George Ford will start in the No. 10 shirt, with Courtney Lawes taking the skipper's armband. 

While Farrell’s absence is not ideal, many England fans have been calling for Ford to start. Having come on in the second half last weekend, Ford ignited the English attack, bringing a spark that had been missing to that point. 

Like England, Ireland also is missing its talismanic captain and first-choice fly-half, with Johnny Sexton absent through suspension. 

In his place, his Leinster teammate Ross Byrne will start at fly-half against a team he has enjoyed little success against over the past four years. 

Yet, Byrne is far superior to the player who took to the field the last time the two sides met in a World Cup warm-up and is starting as part of a near-full-strength Irish side. 

Like Ford, Byrne is a game manager of the highest order and will look to utilize his pinpoint kicking game to keep the Irish forwards on the front foot. 

Once on the front foot, Byrne will look to pull the strings by bringing in the Irish backline's deadly strike runners and playmakers. Namely, Garry Ringrose, whose ability to act as a secondary distributor is a key aspect of the heads-up attack Farrell and attack coach Mike Catt have implemented over the past four seasons. 

Interestingly, both sides have fly-halves on the bench who are in direct contrast to their starters, with Marcus Smith and Jack Crowley both more accustomed to running the ball than kicking it.

Both players will look to up the tempo when they are introduced Saturday as they make their respective pushes to be included in the regular 23s for the World Cup. 


The last time these two sides met, a red card played a significant role in the fixture. While there is significant evidence to believe Ireland would’ve won the Six Grand Slam decider, fullback Freddie Steward’s sending off limited England’s options. 

Despite the tense atmosphere and relatively close nature of that fixture, these two sides have been on vastly different trajectories since the last World Cup. 

Losing finalists in 2019 with a young squad, many believed this would be England’s cycle to once again be the strongest Six Nations side and land a second World Cup title. 

Yet, the Red Roses have fallen behind both Ireland and France by quite a margin since the final in Tokyo.  

Ireland, on the flipside, has continued to break down barriers, winning both the Grand Slam and a historic series victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand.  

In addition to this, they have beaten every Tier 1 nation in their way and have comfortably beaten England in their last three meetings.  

This run of results looks unlikely to change this weekend, with Ireland hyper-motivated to avoid their shortcomings of four years ago when they lost 57-15 to England, before heading to a disappointing World Cup campaign. 

With their side nearly at full-strength and raring to go following two weeks of training, Ireland will show more than it did against Italy to come away with a comfortable win to celebrate Keith Earls's 100th test Cap. Ireland by 18.