England on red alert for Ireland backlash

10:00 PM GMT

Eddie Jones has put England on red alert ahead of their Grand Slam bid in Dublin on Saturday. They have been told to prepare for a backlash from the wounded Ireland animal, advised not to take any notice of wolves-in-kiwi clothing and warned to expect a peppering of high kicks from the opposition backs.

The message is clear: rely on nothing, and expect anything and everything on the field.

Jones is meticulous with this approach to foreign turfs, and has in the past advised his England team to expect pre-match skulduggery; with Scotland it was wayward bagpipes, France it was renegade roosters and with Wales it was their goat potentially disrupting their preparations.

But with Ireland, he knows what lies in wait in Dublin: blind passion from those in green, fuelled by St Patrick’s Day weekend frivolities and a desire to gate-crash England’s Grand Slam party.

At the centre of this narrative is the wounded Irish animal. This weekend was meant to be the Grand Slam decider, as both sides — in a separate realm — should have been unbeaten at this stage. In reality, Ireland will be fuming after their defeat in Wales and England are expecting a backlash.

“The start is going to be crucial,” Jones said. “Ireland will come with a lot of emotion. We have got to be better than them. We have got to be more aggressive, more emotional in the right way, more committed as well as smart and skillful and that is how we are preparing.”

England beat Ireland in last year’s championship at Twickenham, but this will be Eddie Jones’ first trip to the Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis via Getty Images)

Jones knows full well how good Ireland can be at full pelt. His complete preoccupation as England coach is to turn this group into a squad that see off the All Blacks; Ireland have done that and he has paid it due attention. He is also an admirer of their fly-half Jonathan Sexton and coach Joe Schmidt. There are no mind games this week, but he has talked up England’s physicality, saying they will peak this weekend.

Nor is there seemingly a danger of complacency, in words at least, from the England camp. Celebrations were kept to a minimum on Saturday, despite having the Six Nations title in the bag, with outside praise shut off.

The squad met on Sunday evening to talk about the following week and 2011 was referenced — the last time England travelled to Dublin chasing a Grand Slam. On that day they were brought crashing back to earth. Jones wants those scars to remain, but constantly reinforces how this is an evolving beast with match-on-match focus.

There was a need for a “cleansing” meeting on their last fallow week, where they re-focused and looked to “reset” their minds. The performance against Scotland was the result, one which brought praise from lofty All Blacks quarters with England matching their 18-Test winning run.

But Jones was wary of that, even pleasantries from Steve Hansen are treated with an element of caution. “It’s a bit like red riding hood and the wolf when it comes dressed up as the grandmother … you have to always be careful when All Blacks coaches compliment you, you always have to be careful.”

There are few certainties in rugby, but Jones is preparing for a “strong physical challenge at the breakdown, pressure on our 9/10 and high balls”. Cope with that, and England may well write a new chapter under Jones as they secure the rarest of northern hemisphere feats: elusive back-to-back Grand Slams.

“They realise they have a once in a lifetime opportunity here,” Jones said. “History shows that winning back to back Grand Slams happens once in every 27 years. None of these players is going to be playing in 27 years so this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18899422/england-red-alert-dublin-grand-slam-showdown
England on red alert for Ireland backlash
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