Vunipola sent off as five-try Ireland beat England

Mack Hansen touches down to score Ireland's fourth try
Mack Hansen scored Ireland’s fourth try of the game, shortly after Billy Vunipola’s red card
Ireland (7) 29
Tries: Aki, Ringrose, Lowe, Hansen, Earls Cons: Byrne, Crowley
England (3) 10
Try: Sinckler Con: Ford Pen: Ford

England forward Billy Vunipola was sent off as Ireland secured a major momentum boost before the World Cup by scoring five tries in a comfortable win.

Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, James Lowe, Mack Hansen and Keith Earls all crossed for the world’s number one-ranked side.

Vunipola was dismissed just before Ireland’s third try for a high tackle.

England, who were missing captain Owen Farrell amid his ongoing disciplinary saga, managed one late try in reply through Kyle Sinckler.

England number eight Vunipola was shown a yellow card for a challenge on Ireland prop Andrew Porter but it was upgraded to a red following a review, so like his captain Farrell the forward’s World Cup hopes now hang in the balance.

Vunipola joins Farrell in red card trouble

The build-up to the game had been dominated by the saga involving Farrell following the England fly-half’s ‘bunker’ red card against Wales last week and now head coach Steve Borthwick risks losing Vunipola too.

With Farrell, who faces an appeal hearing on Tuesday, excluded from the squad for Saturday’s match, George Ford was given the chance to shine as the playmaker.

Ford had not started a game for England since 2021 but the Sale Sharks fly-half kicked the winning points off the bench against Wales and picked up where he left off in Dublin, nudging the visitors ahead with an early penalty.

Ireland, who secured what Andy Farrell described as a “clunky” win over Italy a fortnight ago, were subdued in the opening exchanges despite the head coach restoring several of his key players.

However they sprung into life brilliantly for the game’s opening try, with Aki running under the posts after a clever Josh van der Flier tip-on sent Peter O’Mahony through the defence.

While Ireland showed clear signs of rust, England managed just one entry into the home side’s 22 during a disjointed opening half, with Ford also missing a second kick at goal that would have brought the visitors back to within one.

The end of the half brought mixed emotions for Ireland. While the sight of hooker Dan Sheehan hobbling off will be a concern given Ronan Kelleher lack of availability recently, the hosts managed to stretch their lead in first-half added time through Ringrose’s try.

It was a good one, too, with Hugo Keenan, Cian Prendergast and O’Mahony all involved before Mack Hansen picked out the centre with a perfect crossfield kick, enabling Ringrose to dodge a couple of last-ditch tackles and move Ireland nine clear before the break.

Ireland thrive as England wilt

Vunipola tackles Porter
Vunipola was initially shown a yellow card for his tackle on Porter

Following a low-key start to the second half, things went from bad to worse for England, who failed to build on last week’s win over Wales.

With Vunipola off the pitch, Ireland immediately put England under pressure and their efforts yielded a third try when Ross Byrne floated a pass out wide to Lowe, who had started the move.

Immediately after Byrne missed his conversion, Vunipola’s yellow was upgraded to a red by the bunker review system to deepen England’s woes in Dublin.

Ireland stretched their lead through the impressive Hansen, and while Sinckler hit back for England, there was a fairytale moment for Earls.

The Munster back came off the bench to become Ireland’s ninth centurion and put the finishing touches to a comfortable victory when he crashed over to mark his 100th cap in a grand manner and prompt the loudest roar of the evening from the Aviva crowd.

Having secured a 12th straight Test win, Ireland will look to make it a clean sweep of warm-up game wins when they face Samoa in Bayonne next week.

In contrast, England will nervously await the outcome of Farrell’s appeal hearing on Tuesday before Vunipola’s fate is resolved.


Ireland: Keenan; Hansen, Ringrose, Aki, Lowe; Byrne, Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, Beirne, Ryan (capt), O’Mahony, van der Flier, Prendergast.

Replacements: Herring, Loughman, Bealham, McCarthy, Doris, Murray, Crowley, Earls.

England: Steward; Watson, Marchant, Tuilagi, Daly; Ford, Youngs; Genge, George, Stuart, Itoje, Ribbans, Lawes (capt), Earl, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Dan, Marler, Sinckler, Chessum, Willis, Care, Smith, Lawrence.

Referee: Paul Williams (NZR)

Assistant referees: Craig Evans (WRU) and Adam Jones (WRU)

TMO: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

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