Both teams have been named and they have caused some debate, but will the changes pay off?
The hosts and reigning Grand Slam champions have called on their big players, however Robbie Henshaw has been selected at full-back ahead of veteran 15 Rob Kearney.
Kearney has been recovering from an injury and returned to playing duties last weekend with Leinster as they hosted the Scarlets, but made a massive mistake leading to a try and isn’t ready in Schmidt’s eyes.
Instead, his Leinster team-mate, Henshaw, usually at centre, comes in and has opened up the selection battle for the World Cup later in the year.
Elsewhere on the park, captain Rory Best starts alongside Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong in a formidable front-three.
Behind them, Leinster duo Devin Toner and James Ryan partner up once more. While Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier make up the pack, with van der Flier being preferred to Sean O’Brien at seven.
Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are the half-backs, with Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose continuing their championship winning partnership in the centre.
Last year’s top try scorer and player of the tournament, Jacob Stockdale, will be looking to continue his fine form at 11, with Keith Earls on the opposite wing, and Henshaw at 15.
The bench sees Dave Kilcoyne picked over Jack McGrath, and Quinn Roux gets a seat ahead of Ultan Dillane. Elsewhere, John Cooney is in line for his championship debut, and Jordan Larmour is selected as the 23rd man.
If Ireland’s selection turned a few heads, England’s certainly raised some eyebrows with some debate as players battled for places.
Like Ireland, they have decided to pick a different full-back, with Elliot Daly starting ahead of Mike Brown, who, like Kearney fails to make his team’s 23.
The visitors have had a few boosts since their November series and none more so then having both Vunipola brothers at their disposal.
Mako Vunipola is joined in the front-row by Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler.
In the second-row Maro Itoje is partnered by George Kruis, who wins his place over the likes of Joe Lauchbury and Courtney Lawes.
The back-row is made up of Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, and Billy Vunipola. While Ben Youngs comes in at scrum-half alongside captain and fly-half Owen Farrell.
In the centre, Manu Tuilagi is in line for his first 6 Nations start in over five years, with Henry Slade by his side.
Jack Nowell has been rewarded for his impressive form at Exeter with a starting role at 11. Jonny May occupies the No 14 jersey, with Daly finishing the starting XV.
Their bench will have a significant role to play with the likes of Courtney Lawes, Nathan Hughes, George Ford, and Chris Ashton to call upon. Wasp’s Dan Robson is also in line for his test debut.
BREAKING | Your England team to face Ireland on Saturday in the #GuinnessSixNations
➡ https://t.co/OvATMGPtYw#IREvENG #CarryThemHome ? pic.twitter.com/CoiwYTZsTj— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) January 31, 2019
Speaking ahead of the match both coaches are confident and explained their decisions.
Ireland head coach, Joe Schmidt, has predicted an exciting match and believes the two teams will go toe to toe on Saturday.
“It will be exhilarating and edge of the seat. I don’t think there will be a huge amount between the teams. People are going to be entertained,” he said.
Schmidt will have made a few players sweat with his logic behind the Henshaw selection too, admitting this may become a permanent position for the Athlone native.
“Maybe even as a longer-term option with only 31 going to the World Cup you need guys who can be versatile. There is probably a little bit of that as well as Robbie being a good player and recognised fullback anyway,” he said.
His opposite number, Eddie Jones, has told the media that his team is ready for Ireland and claim a first win in the Aviva since 2013.
“It is well documented no one thinks we can win but I can tell you everyone inside our camp believes we can win,” he said.
He added to Schmidt’s views on how the game will plan out too, as his team look to end a three-game losing streak in the competition and thinks the final minutes will be crucial.
“Traditionally England and Ireland games are always very close, they are tough affairs, there is a lot of emotion in the games so our ability to finish the game strongly is going to be vital,” he said.
Last year, this fixture saw Ireland claim a 24-15 victory and the Grand Slam with it, but it will be a different beast this time around.
So, the teams have been named, the coaches have had their say, players have been dropped, others have been given an opportunity to impress in battle.
All that is left to do is wait and watch, as these two old foes are set to light up the Aviva on Saturday, with the winner gaining bragging rights and possibly the 6 Nations this year.
Pivac names squad for 2021 Six Nations
The squad features one uncapped player, Scarlets back-row Josh Macleod, who was named in the autumn squad last year but didn’t feature after picking up an injury before the campaign began.
Four players who made their international debuts in that campaign, Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Johnny Williams and Louis Rees-Zammit are all included.
Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones and Rhodri Jones (last appearance for Wales v South Africa in 2018) are named as the looseheads in the squad with Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias and Ken Owens (who missed the autumn campaign through injury) the hookers. Leon Brown, Tomas Francis and Dillon Lewis are the three named tight-heads.
Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Will Rowlands and Cory Hill are included as the second-rows.
Dan Lydiate returns to the international set-up (last appearance v Australia in 2018) and is named alongside Josh Navidi, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Macleod and Justin Tipuric.
Hardy who made his debut back in November is named as one of three scrum-halves along with Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams, who has returned from injury. Dan Biggar, Jarrod Evans and Sheedy are the three fly-halves.
Johnny Williams, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin are named as the centres with George North, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Rees-Zammit, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams named as Wales’ back-three options.
“We are hugely looking forward to meeting up as a squad on Monday and to the forthcoming campaign,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.
“The Guinness Six Nations is an important tournament and we have selected a squad accordingly.
“As we consistently spoke about, the autumn for us was about opportunity and development, looking ahead to RWC 2023 and it served that purpose for us.
“This campaign is different, it is tournament rugby and we are excited to get going and to play our part.
“We have picked a squad for this tournament based on form and we are excited to meet up on Monday and to get our preparation underway.”
Scotland name Six Nations squad.
The group, split between 20 forwards and 15 backs, sees eight new players called up who did not feature in the group that contested the recent 2020 Autumn Nations Cup.
In the pack Glasgow Warriors hooker George Turner is selected and joined in the front row by Zander Fagerson and Oli Kebble from Glasgow Warriors, alongside Edinburgh Rugby representatives WP Nel, Rory Sutherland and Simon Berghan.
Glasgow Warriors’ lock pairing Richie Gray and Scott Cummings, Exeter Chief, Jonny Gray are called up, along with Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist who left the ANC squad with an injury before the opening match.
Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie, who have both recently re-signed to long-term deals to stay at Edinburgh Rugby, are joined as back-row options by Glasgow Warrior Matt Fagerson and Scarlet’s Blade Thomson.
Gregor Townsend has chosen just two scrum-half’s for this campaign with Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price and Harlequins’ Scott Steele selected.
Linking up at half-back will be Racing 92’s Finn Russell who returns following an injury sustained in the concluding match of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations vs Wales and Edinburgh’s Jaco Van de Walt who made his Scotland debut in the ANC semi-final against Ireland.
Gloucester’s Chris Harris, Saracen Duncan Taylor, Glasgow Warrior Huw Jones and Harlequins’ James Lang are selected at centre.
In the back three Scotland Captain Stuart Hogg is joined by Edinburgh Rugby trio Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham and Duhan van de Merwe and Saracens’ Sean Maitland.
With an eye to the future three additional players have been invited to train with the squad during the campaign. Edinburgh Rugby back row forward, Rory Darge, Glasgow Warriors pair winger, Rufus MacLean and scrum-half, Jamie Dobie will join up with the squad, which goes into camp on Sunday.
Speaking on the squad selection Gregor Townsend said: “As coaches we have selected a group which we believe can build on the work our players put in throughout the recent Autumn Nations Cup campaign and kick on again in terms of performance levels.
“The depth we have across the squad enables us to bring in some new players who have excelled in recent weeks and others who we believe can perform at Test level.
“Our tournament gets off to a fantastic start with a fixture we look forward to every year against England and the opportunity to win back the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham.
“We are very aware how different this year’s competition will be due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it also provides a huge amount of positivity and enjoyment for millions of supporters and we are looking forward to contesting every match and giving this championship our very best.”
Paul O’Connell Joins Ireland Coaching Group
Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has joined the Ireland national coaching group as forwards coach with Simon Easterby to focus on defence.
Paul was capped 108 times by Ireland and captained the team to Six Nations success in 2014. O’Connell’s distinguished playing career also included seven Test match appearances for the British & Ireland Lions across three tours and two Heineken Cup titles with Munster.
Since retiring from playing in 2015, Paul has held coaching positions with the Munster Academy, Ireland Under-20s and Top 14 side Stade Francais.
“I am really looking forward to working with Andy and the rest of the coaching group. I worked with Simon as a player and am looking forward to working with him again. It’s an exciting young group of players to be involved with and there are talented forwards coming through across the four provinces that will no doubt be pushing for international selection in the coming months and years.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell commented:
“Paul brings a wealth of rugby knowledge with him and as forwards coach he will have responsibility for the forwards including the line-out working alongside John (Fogarty). He will also be another strong voice and leader within the group.
“Simon (Easterby) has a real passion for defence and having developed Ireland’s forward play over the past six years with the additional responsibility for the defence over the past 12 months, he will now be able to focus his energy and rugby intellect on this area of our game.
“The weekend’s Interpro games and the European fixtures in the weeks ahead will give players the opportunity to push for selection for the Six Nations squad. The squad will not be selected until after the Champions Cup Round 4 fixtures have been completed.”
IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented: “Paul is a young Irish coach with a huge amount of international rugby experience. We have been keen to find the right opportunity for him within Irish Rugby and we think the fit with the national squad will work well. He joins the national coaching group with immediate effect as they prepare for the upcoming Six Nations Championship.”