Martin Johnson leads the side from the stand rather than on the field as he did eight years ago, while a win, following home fixtures against France, Italy and Scotland and a visit to Wales, will secure the Grand Slam, just as it did back then.
It is also a World Cup year, with Johnson and all connected with the England side hoping that a win in Dublin will be the precursor to success on the global stage, just as it was under Clive Woodward’s stewardship almost a decade ago.
Jason Robinson was a key member of Woodward’s famous side, adding the pace and try-scoring ability that England needed to go along with the brawn of Johnson and his fellow forwards, and the metronomic boot of Jonny Wilkinson.
The squad may have changed somewhat since then, with Wilkinson now merely back-up to Toby Flood — the side’s new poster boy — but Robinson can see similarities between this side and the one he was part of, and hopes they can enjoy success, just as he did in 2003.
“Back in 2003, the Six Nations played a big part in our eventual success at the World Cup. We’d lost to Ireland in Dublin in 2001 and that really kicked off a period of consistency and momentum for us.
“You can see with the current team, they have momentum and consistency. They’ll have only started 17 players, and, with the World Cup coming around the corner, there are a lot of good signs. You could see some signs that they were improving last autumn and they’ve continued into the Six Nations.
“Sometimes they’ve just done enough, but that’s what it’s all about. You can’t always win by 40 points with players scoring all over the place. Wins have to be ground down. England are doing that and there’s a belief with them.
“That was the big thing with my team. We had belief. We’d experienced missing out on the Grand Slam by losing there in 2001, so when we went back, we had a sheer belief that we weren’t leaving without the Grand Slam. We were focused on doing a job and we did it, scoring 42 points.
“There are a lot of signs and comparisons. We’ve played the same teams at home as we did in 2003 and finish with Ireland away. I just hope England can go out there and play.”
It has taken some time for Johnson to get England to their current level, with several combinations, players and methods thrown in the bin as the Red Rose wilted following their appearance at the World Cup final in 2007.
Robinson admits he was one of those who looked on at the side’s struggles and wondered how they were ever going to get back to a level where they could challenge for trophies, but believes Johnson’s attitude is one of they key reasons why they have.
“Twelve months ago you looked at the side and wondered what was going to happen to them, but the good thing about Jonno is, he’s been under pressure before and believes in what he can do,” Robinson said. “He’s had a lot of stick over the last few years. Everyone wants you to do things overnight, but the main thing that has changed is the mindset of the players. Martin has had some stick, but the players needed to put their hands up and take responsibility.
“Martin kept his head down and the players have now come good, but Martin won’t have his party hat on. He’s serious about what he does.”