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England fear themsleves more than anything likely to be presented by this Irish team

 

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

PA

Eddie Jones

St Patrick's Day 2018 seems like a lifetime ago now, the occasion being the last time England succumbed to Ireland.

Since then the complexion of these meetings has undergone an entire makeover, with sheer size, power and a certain amount of pace being deployed to overwhelm any notion that Ireland can co-exist in the face of such an assault.

England know they can exist at a different level from the Irish, but this superiority is also potentially their greatest weakness, which is something Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell will have drilled into them.

They've won the last three on the spin against Ireland - the most galling for their opposition being August 2019's 57-15 annihilation when Joe Schmidt's side were exposed to some highly damaging realities - and after France swatted Andy Farrell's squad aside in Paris, this England squad are eager to pile on yet more misery.

In essence, England fear themselves more than anything likely to be presented to them by this Irish team. If they falter in any way from the brutality of their ruthlessness then that is vulnerability and might put them off their stride.

The Six Nations champions also badly want to be there at the end of the Autumn Nations Cup to contest the prize, against likely opponents France, hence Jones picking his strongest selection for today's Twickenham meeting, which will be the third time in succession the two old rivals have clashed in south west London.

Though Ireland need some form of restorative display when it comes to taking on this England side, they ought to be worried.

The English front five is at its mighty best thanks to the presence of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler, along with Joe Launchbury and a certain Maro Itoje.

When Jones threw his jibe at Andy Farrell about Ireland's dominant display over Wales - as the England coach said: "The challenge is can they bring a dominant Irish performance to Twickenham?" - the England coach was as much putting up to Farrell Jnr and his team-mates as trying to further rattle Ireland's cage.

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Owen Farrell

Owen Farrell

Getty Images

Owen Farrell

 

Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Billy Vunipola will take some stopping on both sides of the ball, while Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell ought to be afforded ample time and space to pick their plays, whether it be firing Henry Slade forward or trying to involve their back three of Elliot Daly - admittedly a potential weak link at 15 - Jonathan Joseph and Jonny May.

They know they have the beating of Ireland, the question remains if this knowledge could compromise the game-plan. It might, but doesn't look likely.

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