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Quality performance more important than sealing another Grand Slam, says Haskell

By Duncan Bech

James Haskell insists England's performance against Ireland will mean more to Eddie Jones' squad than claiming back-to-back Grand Slams and setting a new world record for consecutive Test wins.

England travel to Dublin today having already defended their Six Nations title with victory over Scotland last weekend, and a win against Ireland will see Jones' men become the first side to claim successive Grand Slams since 1992.

Wasps flanker Haskell believes the implementation of Jones' long-term plans for England supersedes the excitement of possibly eclipsing New Zealand's record of 18 consecutive Test wins at the Aviva Stadium.

"I want to tell you that it (history) does have relevance but I'd just be lying to you," Haskell said. "I think it does just in terms of headlines, great news reports, and excitement for fans. But when you're in it, the most important thing is getting the result and getting the performance, playing the best you can.

"Yes, you have an awareness of these things and you always want to make sure you do the best you can. And if the best you can do is winning titles and winning records then that's important.

"But the most important thing for all of us as a team is getting that performance and making sure that you leave the shirt in a better place than you found it.

"We will only celebrate if the job gets done as we want it to. We have a huge occasion against Ireland. It was great to get the performance against Scotland but there's no point in celebrating when you've more to come."

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt will be without key trio Conor Murray, Devin Toner and Rob Kearney, but Haskell does not feel those absences will change their preparation.

"I don't think it changes things too much at all, " Haskell said.

"We know what Ireland are going to do, how physical they're going to be, where they're going to compete around the park.

"It's really important to implement our game. Yes, there'll be a sprinkle of some unknown, there'll be some trick plays, there always is. But the most important thing is that if you're well-drilled, if you deliver what you can do with the intensity and passion we've had with training, then things will go your way.

"It's a very difficult place to go to. We've won games there, we've lost games there, we've lost Grand Slam decider games there. It's a huge occasion."

Meanwhile, England's entire front row contingent have argued a compelling case for British and Irish Lions selection, according to Neal Hatley.

Duels for Lions selection litter the field, but among the most fascinating will take place in the front row where Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole lock horns with Jack McGrath, Rory Best and Tadgh Furlong.

"All the guys have put their hands up - Mako, Joe, Jamie, Dylan.... there isn't a single player in the front row who hasn't put his hand up," England's scrum coach said. "They're a good six, particularly at loosehead in Joe and Mako.

"We have one of the best tightheads in the world in Dan Cole and one of the best upcoming tightheads in Kyle Sinckler.

"We've got three really experienced, top quality props and one kid who is going to get there.

"Dylan will become the fourth highest capped England international and you don't get there if you're not a quality player."

Belfast Telegraph

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