Horan wary of an English backlash
Marcus Horan admits Ireland fear an England side galvanised by a torrent of criticism as they plot their Grand Slam course to Cardiff.
Ireland lead the RBS 6 Nations after two matches, separated from Wales by points difference with the rivals destined to meet in a possible winner-takes-all finale at the Millennium Stadium on March 21.
Recent form suggested England’s visit to Dublin a week on Saturday would be a formality but the shoots of recovery were evident during their valiant defeat by Wales.
Horan was present when England were thumped 43-13 at Croke Park two years ago but he expects the smarting World Cup finalists to be a different proposition this time.
The bulldozing Munster prop is part of a heavily-maligned Irish front row that yet again answered their own critics in yesterday’s 38-9 win over Italy and he knows the value of being written off.
"England are a good side, have always been. Their game against Wales was a very exciting match, free-flowing. It’s always a huge challenge against England," he said.
"I wasn’t surprised at how well they performed against Wales. The Six Nations always throws up that intensity.
"They were written off but our front row was written off against Italy. There was a lack of respect during the week.
"I don’t know whether it came from the press or the team, but I’ve had it all my career and try to use it in a positive manner.
"That sort of negativity rises teams, it’s a red rag to a bull and that’s the way I see the criticism affecting England."
Momentum is key to a successful Six Nations title bid and Ireland have established plenty of their own with victories over France and Italy.
It has been 51 years since Ireland won their only Grand Slam — 24 since they clinched the championship — and expectation the ’golden generation’ can finally fulfil their potential is growing.
But no-one in the Irish camp is making any heady predictions, least of all Horan who can look no further than producing "something big" against a side coached by Martin Johnson (right).
"We’re building. When you’re winning like we are it’s a good feeling. Everyone has a spring in their step," said the 31-year-old.
"But no-one is looking beyond the next game. You have to be professional about it.
"We’ve got a rest coming up and that’s good because we need time to recuperate from the two tough games we’ve had.
"When we get back to training next week we can offer something big against England."
Ireland have scored eight tries in their two outings, displaying a clinical streak that Horan believes will be crucial to their title aspirations.
"The first try against Italy was against the run of play but we took it and at this level that’s key. Any sniff of a try you must get in there and take it," he said.
"Last year we didn’t get the tries the way we have done so far in this championship.
"That’s key for us because we must hurt teams if we want to beat sides.
"The players are looking to get the ball in hand and that’s exciting."