Player Ratings: The champions
OPINION: A deathly hush around the Aviva Stadium set the tone for an eerily nervous opening for Andy Farrell’s Ireland – who were very much rabbits in the headlights in face of Grand Slam history in Dublin.
No doubt the occasion got to the team and it’s a performance that might just worry the coaching ticket. This did not look like the best rugby team in the world.
The history books – of course – will record a fourth Grand Slam and Ireland march on.
15. Hugo Keenan – 7
Kept making breaks which his teammates were repeatedly unable to capitalize on. Went off after being clattered by Steward.
14. Mack Hansen – 6
Bit of a mixed bag here from the Aussie who had enjoyed a breakout tournament to date. For every romp upfield there was a fumbled pass or a knock-on. The good outweighed the bad though.
13. Robbie Henshaw – 7
A big ask to come back in the 13 channel but he dealt well with England’s direct if limited attack.
12. Bundee Aki – 7.5
A ding dong battle with old nemesis Manu Tuilagi, with honours maybe ending up even. His slipped pass for Henshaw to score in the 61st minute was pure selflessness.
11. James Lowe – 7
Seemed comfortable in the early kick-tennis exchanges and made a number of telling tackles. There were a lot of nervous nellies out there but Lowe wasn’t one of them. Missed a couple of tackles.
10. Johnny Sexton – 6
Went all guts and glory with a demented charge to the line after a quarter of an hour, but it was the urgency Ireland needed, even if it didn’t pay off. Hardly vintage Sexton but he managed Peyper well and won the flyhalf ego battle with Owen Farrell.
9. Jamieson Gibson-Park – 7
Handling errors meant that Ireland could never quite utilise the high-tempo game JGP was driving, but to his credit, he stayed in the fight and was among those forcing the issue when Ireland look unsure of themselves.
8. Caelan Doris – 5
Back in after recovering from a back issue, this was easily his worst game of this campaign, which is hardly the biggest criticism.
7. Josh van der Flier – 7
Another player who was trying to make things happen. Stripped Tuilagi of the ball in 19th minute and was Ireland’s standout back row, bedevilling the English on both sides of the ball.
6. Peter O’Mahony – 6
Made some big defensive plays in the first half but errors suggested he was as spooked as the rest of the Ireland team. Taken off after 55 minutes.
5. James Ryan – 6
At the coal face all day and had the tackle count to prove it. A return to form for England’s Maro Itoje meant he had plenty to contend with.
4. Ryan Baird – 7
Like many of his teammates, the occasion got to Baird early doors, but he soon hit his straps. His turnover at 58 minutes was pure gold and by the end of his innings, the rookie looked every bit the Test second row.
3. Tadhg Furlong – 4
The rustiness seemed to catch up with Furlong here and he struggled to cope against Genge. One to forget for the tighthead superstar.
2. Dan Sheehan – 7
Fluffed his lines with a dud lineout throw but all was forgotten when he bulldozed his way over for a try that few hookers in world rugby would have finished. The lineout yips returned in the second half, with some questionable decision-making (Why keep throwing to the rear?) If his first try didn’t do it, his second certainly glossed over his shabby darts.
1. Andrew Porter – 6
Somewhat settled Irish nerves with a massive turnover when getting in over Henry Arundell after 10 chilling minutes for Ireland. Unlucky to get pinged for wheeling the scrum in the 29th minute.
REPLACEMENTS – 8: Jimmy O’Brien made a big impact as did Jack Conan. Rob Herring chipped in with a well-taken 5-pointer. Kieran Treadwell and Ross Byrne also contributed.