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Sports

Ireland take on England with Grand Slam in sight

media Joe Schmidt has led Ireland to three titles in the Six Nations tournament in five years. Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

England host Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday with the aim of preventing the visitors from making a clean sweep of the 2018 Six Nations tournament. The last time the Irish won all of their matches in the competition came in 2009.

Their only other Grand Slam was in 1948 when France, Scotland, Wales and England were the contenders.

Italy joined the party in 2000 and since then England have won the title six times. France have five wins and the Irish four.

England had been attempting to hoist the Six Nations title for an unprecendented third year on the trot. But their bid suffered a blow when Scotland beat them 25-13 at Murrayfield on 24 February.

The dream was terminated on 10 March at the Stade de France where France edged past them 22-16. It was the first time England had lost consecutive matches since Eddie Jones took over as coach in 2015.

"It isn't going to take just an ordinary performance and England certainly are not just going to hand us a victory," said Ireland captain Rory Best on the eve of the clash.

England makes 10 changes

His England counterpart, Dylan Hartley, returns to the fold after missing the defeat against France with a calf injury.

"We are still a good team," the 31-year-old insisted. "Two losses don't mean we are not a good team."

Jones has made 10 changes from the side that lost to France.

"I love it," he said. "This is what we get paid for as coaches. It's the best time in rugby, when you are under the pump and you have got to produce it."

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt admitted he was scared at the thought of becoming only the third coach to lead the side to a Grand Slam. His players are on a record national winning run of 11 Tests going into the England game.

"I wouldn't say that you can control that emotional rollercoaster that preparing a high-level sports team engenders," said Schmidt.

"There are times where you inevitably imagine the worst-case scenario. Worst-case scenario is that England hit the ground running and they actually win with a bit to spare. It would be a crushing way for us to finish a year of being unbeaten."

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