I have two English brothers-in-law coming over here this weekend which should be a bit of fun one way or another. I’m going to have to put up with them whatever the result.
Whatever happens, this Irish team has played very well and deserve to be in the position where they can grab a Grand Slam. England, full of good players, have not actually
performed at all, even in the games they won.
But just as Ireland did them over last year in Dublin, we have to be aware that they are well
capable of doing us over this year because they have really high-quality players; if their coach can get the balance of the team right then they could produce the type of game they haven’t managed to produce so far this Six Nations.
Have no doubt about it, England are a good side, there are really good players and it is hard to work out just where they have gone wrong; the team has loads of pace but I think you have to go back to the period when the key player for England was Neil Back, an out and out openside able to create that vital link between the pack and the back division.
It is perhaps that one aspect which has been the problem for England of late, the back row has not helped to produce the type of ball that a back line would need to create that continuity. Everything from their point of view has been too slow, they have been giving away penalties as if it doesn’t matter.
Can that improve in a week? It’s very difficult because the attitude of mind to change that takes a period of time to develop, but I would warn Ireland that their quality of player is very high; one would think they are capable of going out to successfully play whatever game Eddie Jones suggests they should. If he were to structure the team in a better way, then he could really put it up to Ireland.
But Ireland have played exceptionally well, and on Saturday I thought (Garry) Ringrose was tremendous, Keith Earls has played brilliantly this year, his best season, and Stockdale, what about him? Add in Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray who have run the show.
It’s all really positive and I think this team has set standards really high to the point that they won’t be unreasonably challenged by having to win a game in Twickenham. That consistency has been challenged already and they have come through each and every one.
No predictions because of where the game is and how difficult it always is to win over there, but I would be very optimistic.