By Simon Lewis
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell is relishing tomorrow's final pre-World Cup clash with England at Twickenham, labelling the home side standard bearers for the Northern Hemisphere.
Both sides will be near to full-strength in London with each of them trying to rebound from defeats last weekend, Ireland losing at home to Wales, the English going down in Paris against France.
“It’s always a massive game for an Irish team playing England there’s no doubt about it, and playing at Twickenham is bigger again,” O'Connell said today.
“They’ve been the standard bearers, the only Northern Hemisphere team to win a World Cup, and the way they’ve been building has been very impressive.
“They probably had two of the most impressive performances of the Six Nations, winning in Wales and then the last day against France.
England and Ireland will be looking to regain some momentum before their opening pool games two weekends from now.
“I suppose you go into these games with a heightened sense of fear almost, and respect, and hopefully it makes you play well.”
O'Connell refuted the suggestion that France's defeat of Stuart Lancaster's team last weekend had exposed English frailties to be potentially exploited by his Irish side.
"I don’t think there’s weaknesses, I think every team has days like that no matter how good you are. It’s rare, if ever, you’ve seen that happen to an English team in the last few years under Lancaster so, we’ve no doubt how pumped up they will be for the physical aspect of the game given what happened in Paris. I think it’s a slightly different team now as well. Geoff Parling and Tom Wood are two very good lineout options as well.
“I’ve no doubt they’ll be eager to reply to the physicality of that performance in Paris.”