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Six Nations: England coach Johnson relishes ‘huge game’

Martin Johnson warned England they will need to produce their best performance of the RBS 6 Nations championship if they are to beat reigning champions Ireland.

Boosted by winger Mark Cueto being passed fit to start after recovering from a stomach bug England manager Johnson branded today's clash as a “huge” opportunity for England.

But he admitted the team will need to step up their performance if they are to beat an Ireland side hurting from the 33-10 defeat to France which shattered their Grand Slam defence.

Ireland have beaten England in five of the last six years.

Johnson said: “This is the sort of game you get involved in rugby to play in. There will be a full house at Twickenham, the Grand Slam champions are coming and we have a chance to try and beat them.

“It is a good game to be involved in and it comes at a good time for us, Ireland at home after two wins.

“Ireland come here as the best team from these islands, they certainly have that tag at the moment.

“It is a huge game. We will have to be better than we have been to beat them.”

The day after Ireland were thumped in Paris - their first loss in 13 games - England laboured to a 17-12 victory over Italy in Rome which drew fierce criticism for a lack of attacking ambition.

Johnson is confident England will improve, having learned both from France's performance against Ireland and his own side's failings in Rome

“We are better off for every game we play because the guys are getting used to playing with each other,” said Johnson.

“The battle tomorrow is to get tempo in the game when we have the ball and that is the challenge.

“France got a huge tempo in the game and they managed to keep that tempo in their attack. If we can get quick ball there will be chances to attack.

“But it will be a big challenge for us tomorrow. The breakdown will be key. Their back five forwards are all Lions from the last tour.

“Their back line is very strong as well. Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll are a real running threat.”

Belfast Telegraph


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