England intend to take into today’s game of the season against Ireland the same bold and attacking attitude that served them so well two years ago, when they scored in minutes and went on to win in Dublin for the first time in six years (Mick Cleary writes).
The win was the first in a four-game winning streak against Ireland, a boost in confidence as England seek to avoid a loss that would lead them to perhaps their worst Six Nations result and debut. Celt-wash, after losses in Scotland and Wales.
George Ford will be a central figure in England’s determination to build on last weekend’s invigorating victory over France.
This match featured the kind of vivid, handball-to-hand streak that seemed like a lost art for Eddie Jones’ side in the Fall Nations Cup, when Ford himself described the prospect of having the ball. under defensive pressure like a “time bomb”, hence the soul-destroying spectacle of so many kicks.
Those boring and leaden days seem to be rooted in the past, with the 2021 Guinness Six Nations serving a lot of positive rugby.
Ford wins his 77th selection in Dublin, third only to Owen Farrell and Jonny Wilkinson in the all-time rosters, and he hopes to stay true to his own basic instincts.
“I always think let’s run first,” Ford said. “Even in the fall, it was my thought. I know a lot has been made of this [time-bomb] sentence, but it is a question of having an idea of the game. I base my [run-first] decision on ball speed, momentum and is it to keep the ball in hand, is it to put pressure on the opponent by bringing the ball into space? It’s always my first thought, ”he added.
“Even against France, after scoring very early, I never imagined that we would have so many balls to attack in the next 20 to 25 minutes. But we have to make sure we’re ready for whenever the opportunity arises. The key is to be ready to do it at the right time. We want to put everything aside against Ireland. We want to be a real threat with the ball in hand and the attack.
England’s dismal opening to the championship was offset by the tone of their 23-20 victory over title-seeking France. Still, that upbeat background music would take on a darker quality if they lost to Ireland. England have only finished below fourth place, a losing streak in 2018, meaning they fell fifth, so there is a lot to be done on the result at Aviva Stadium.
“We think he’s coming back after the Wales game knowing that we had two of the best teams in Europe in France and Ireland to play and you couldn’t ask for two more competitive and challenging games,” said Ford.
“We wanted to put in a brilliant performance to get two wins. This is how we saw it and it has not changed. We want to win tomorrow because that’s what it is. ”
There is no doubt that advanced exchanges will shape Ford’s agenda, with defense coach John Mitchell promising “a war of rupture”, with Ireland “a tenacious country, a tenacious team that fights hard for each other. They will see this as an opportunity against us and will fight back ”.
Ford is face to face with Irish captain Johnny Sexton, a double Lion, but the Leicester fly-half rejects any discussion that this game is some sort of selection audition in front of head coach Warren Gatland. The 28-year-old is often underestimated in the shadow of Owen Farrell, but he takes up the cause with renewed vigor each time he is selected for England, a rookie or not.
Ireland’s kicking game, through Conor Murray or Sexton, will be key and Mitchell has been clear: “We are not having any illusions about what to expect,” referring to the aerial game. But if Ford manages to make the quality of the ball he received against France and England thrive, then Gatland may be able to add another name to his list of half-flies.