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Ireland going for Grand Slam as Home Nations look to finish Championship on a high

Ireland going for Grand Slam as Home Nations look to finish Championship on a high

Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell - key men as England and Ireland seek to level their series against South Africa and Australia

Italy v Scotland, Stadio Olimpico

Scotland travel to Rome for the opening match of Round Five looking to finish their Championship on a high after losing to Ireland in Dublin last week.

Head coach Gregor Townsend welcomes back 2017 Lion Tommy Seymour who takes his place on the wing and forms an explosive back three with Lions Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg alongside him.

Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell are retained as the half backs while captain John Barclay is joined by Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson in an explosive back-row. 2013 Lion Richie Gray is drafted in amongst the replacements which includes the ever-lively Ali Price and exciting young talent Blair Kinghorn.

With the weather set to be warm and dry and such dangerous finishers all over the park, Scotland will look to play an expansive game in Rome.

 

 

England v Ireland, Twickenham

Ireland already wrapped up the Championship for 2018 with victory over Scotland last week and England falling short against France in Paris.

The men in green won’t need any extra motivation however, as any sort of victory in Twickenham will hand them only their third ever Grand Slam – the last of which came back in 2009.

The home side have made a number of changes for their last Championship fixture with captain Dylan Hartley returning at hooker. Maro Itoje and George Kruis partner as an all Lions second row with Chris Robshaw, James Haskell and Sam Simmonds rounding off the back-row.

Owen Farrell, who captained the side in Paris last week, shifts to fly-half with Lions Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph picked at centre.

Ireland, who rely so much on Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton to kick them around the field, will have to be at their very best as any loose kicks will be welcomed with open arms by Elliot Daly, Johnny May and Anthony Watson – surely one of the most dangerous of back three’s.

Meanwhile, Ireland have made just one change with Iain Henderson, who toured New Zealand last summer, picked in the engine room instead of Devin Toner. Ireland’s ability to hold onto possession will be key if they are to win with their back row of Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and the exciting Dan Leavy needed to play a huge role.

This is set to be one of the matches of the Championship and is sure to go down to the wire.

 

 

Wales v France, Principality Stadium

Wales host France at Principality Stadium in the final match of the 2018 Championship. Coming off their strong win against Italy last week, head coach Warren Gatland has made several changes. 2013

Player of the Tour Leigh Halfpenny is picked at full-back and is joined by George North and Liam Williams. Taulupe Faletau, who captained the side for the first-time last week, continues at no.8 with Alun Wyn Jones drafted back in for the arrival of Les Bleus.

Ken Owens, who played a pivotal role in the Tour of New Zealand, again starts at hooker with Rob Evans and Tomas Francis either side of him.

Victory in Cardiff could give the men in red a second-place finish in the Championship and with a tough Tour to Argentina in the summer, Gatland will be hoping to finish this campaign off on a high.

 

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