With the Six Nations starting tonight, we thought we would take a look at some of the talking points leading up to the tournament to help build the excitement.
Every game at this prestigious tournament is a big game, but arguably the biggest of the weekend is the meeting of the two favourite nations facing each other at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin tomorrow.
Hot favourites for the tournament are Ireland, who collide with England, who are second favourites, in what is set to be a huge game so early on in the tournament.
Pre-tournament, England head coach Eddie Jones has surprised a few people with his selections of Manu Tuilagi, who hasn’t started an England Test since 2014, whilst the Vunipola brothers return to the fold too after injury woes.
For the Irish side, Joe Schmidt has selected Robbie Henshaw to start at full-back, despite the fact that Johnny Sexton is now fit enough to start the game.
Decisions like these create a lot of debate amongst fans online, down the pub and at the stadium. The beauty of sport is it’s a matter of opinion.
Sky Sports have now given you the chance to select your own combined starting line-up from both countries, and we examine the results after almost 10,000 votes on each position.
With one Ireland and one England player head-to-head competing for the position, you assume the role of a rugby pundit and select your combined Six Nations XV.
Starting at full-back, the voting could not be closer. With well over 10,000 votes, it seems fans are undecided on whether Ireland’s Robert Henshaw would be a better selection than Elliot Daly.
Moving over to the right wing, England’s Jonny May edges the vote over his Irish counterpart Keith Earls with 54% of the voting, giving England a one player advantage in the early stages.
When considering which outside-centre you wish to choose for your respective XV’s, the decision is pretty clear that Ireland’s Garry Ringrose is the much preferred player in that position, taking over 87% of the 10,000+ votes so far, drawing Ireland level after three selections.
Next up is the decision on inside centre, with Ireland’s Bundee Ali facing stiff competition in returning England favourite Manu Tuilagi, and the Englishman takes the vote with a 10% swing over his Irish challenger, giving England the advantage back once again.
The following makes pretty poor reading for England fans and players, as the Irish players whitewash the results in the next three positions, left wing, fly-half, and scrum-half.
Fans are clearly in favour of Irish trio Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray, as they took 86%, 70% and 93% of the votes respectively.
Mako Vunipola takes the loosehead prop position to bring England back into play as he currently sits with 51% of the vote over Cian Healy, but Ireland pull another position straight back with the landslide selection of Rory Best at hooker, with Jamie George only gaining 31% of the public votes.
At tighthead prop it is another landslide victory for Ireland with Tadhg Furlong dominating proceedings in fans’ opinion, taking a whopping 89% of the votes, giving the Irish another player on the selection.
The second row is a double act between both countries with Maro Itoje and James Ray sharing the burden in what would be a very dominant double act indeed.
Peter O’Mahoney and Josh van der Flier take two more spaces in the side, bolstering Ireland’s pitch presence amongst fans’ favourite XV’s, before England garnered one final selection in Billy Vunipola at No 8.
The final XV is predominantly Irish, with them taking nine places in the side to England's five, with the full-back space locked at 50/50.
Given Ireland’s recent run of dominant form, and the fact they are odds-on favourites to win the tournament with bookmakers, it should come as no surprise that they would have more players in a combined XV.
The Irish team are unbeaten in over two years at home in Test matches and they have never lost a home game in the Six Nations under head coach Joe Schmidt.
Saturday’s game at the Aviva Stadium promises to be a colossal clash and one simply not to be missed!
Combined XV in full: Full-back- Robbie Henshaw/Elliot Daly, Right wing- Jonny May, Outside-centre- Garry Ringrose, Inside-centre- Manu Tuilagi, Left wing- Jacob Stockdale, Fly-half- Johnny Sexton, Scrum-half- Conor Murray, Loosehead prop- Mako Vunipola, Hooker- Rory Best, Tighthead prop- Tadhg Furlong, Second row- Maro Itoje, Second row- James Ryan, Blindside flanker- Peter O’Mahoney, Openside flanker- Josh van der Flier, No 8- Billy Vunipola.News Now - Sport News