Ireland, England seek to put gloss on Six Nations

DUBLIN (AFP) – Ireland host England in their final Six Nations match today with both sides hoping to end on a high note after mixed campaigns.

IRELAND’S LAST STANDER

CJ Stander was born in South Africa but has given his heart and soul in the green jersey of Ireland after qualifying through residency rules.

The 30-year-old will end his career with Ireland with his 51st cap following his shock announcement this week that he would be retiring at the end of the season. Stander may not be easy on the eye for those who seek crowd-pleasing side-stepping runs but he has put his body on the line.

A try in the Grand Slam-sealing win of 2018 at Twickenham showed he could be there at the business end.

To his team-mates he is indispensable and his departure will leave a huge hole.

Captain Johnny Sexton said Ireland must channel their emotions in order to give Stander a proper send-off.

“Sometimes you can have these big send-offs or big occasions, you know, if it is a 50th or a 100th cap or something and it can get to guys, the emotion can be a bit too much,” said Sexton.

“You have to harness it the right way.”

ENGLAND OUT TO PROVE THEY CAN BUILD ON FRANCE WIN

England have picked up speed as the tournament enters its final stretch and victory over the Irish would confirm they are on the right track.

The team that ended France’s Grand Slam hopes last week were a far cry from the one out-fought by Scotland at the start of the tournament.

Owen Farrell and other Saracens players were ring-rusty coming into the Six Nations, with no club games under their belts after the second-tier Championship was suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coach Eddie Jones has compared their situation to that at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, where the joy of a semi-final victory over New Zealand was followed by painful defeat in the final against South Africa.