Centre picks may decide if England or Ireland stay on Triple Crown path
Billy Twelvetrees’ England debut could not have gone any better in the 38-18 victory over Scotland, but whether Stuart Lancaster allows him to retain his place in Ireland could have the biggest say on who will triumph at the Aviva Stadium.
Not only is the winner virtually guaranteed to sit atop the Six Nations standings, but they will remain the sole team capable of securing this season’s Triple Crown.
The Triple Crown has been secured by either England, Ireland, Wales or Scotland in nine of the last 11 Six Nations campaigns and the Irish are deemed the most likely to continue this run this time.
It is 11/8 that Ireland beat the other three, with England 15/8, which is fair given that they go away to both the Irish and the Welsh.
And England have not won a championship match in Dublin for 10 years, which shows the difficulty of the task facing Lancaster and the importance that he gets his team selections right.
The good news is that England won all three of their Six Nations outings on the road last year and this team is stronger and more experienced than that from 12 months ago.
It is at centre where Lancaster faces the biggest headache, in terms of does he stick with Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt after forming a strong partnership against Scotland or does he bring back Manu Tuilagi?
Tuilagi is almost unplayable at his best, running in four tries on his last three England appearances.
Many will be calling for Tuilagi and Twlevetrees to start, but these are the two most attacking options and some organisation will be required in the defensive line.
Meanwhile, Barritt is arguably the best equipped at attempting to nullify Brian O’Driscoll, who hardly put a foot wrong against Wales.
If Tuilagi is fully fit, Lancaster is expected to return to the pairing that helped beat New Zealand in the autumn, although the best move may be to start Tuilagi on the bench and bring him on for the last 20 minutes or so when the Irish defence is most tired.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date