Eddie Jones’ chariot rolls into town on the back of 18 straight wins, including two Six Nations championships in a row. One more win brings a second Grand Slam in a row – and a first ever Tier 1 run of 19 consecutive victories, one better than the current record held by New Zealand.
Of course, that record was finally broken by Joe Schmidt’s men last November, perhaps adding weight to Wallace’s claim fear of failure is a stronger incentive than winning.
“Proving people wrong is an easier motivator, you don’t want to be in that situation where you make things worse,” Wallace said. “It is possibly a bigger motivator than winning. Like it or not, there’s probably more pressure on Ireland. I know England are saying they won’t feel like they’ve won the championship until they beat Ireland, but I will be very impressed with England if they can come over here and win because Ireland will be the hungrier team.
“England’s comprehensive victory over Scotland builds them up to where Ireland want them to be. There is more risk of England coming over slightly more complacent.”
Wallace was part of the Ireland team in 2001 that denied Clive Woodward’s England a Grand Slam title – their third such disappointment in as many years. No team has won back to back Slams since France in 1997-98– in the days before Italy joined the championship.
England, showing no signs of complacency — outwardly at least, appear the best-placed team to repeat that feat, but Wallace has warned it is precisely when you have become accustomed to winning the threat of complacency is greatest. “They are saying, matter of factly, ‘we haven’t won anything yet until we finish the job.’ That’s their mindset. You’ve got to congratulate them for that way of thinking,” Wallace said.
“But, to be fair, when you do get complacent is when things are on a high. You don’t get complacent when you’re low.”
As part of Warren Gatland’s team that denied England a Slam 16 years ago, in a championship disrupted by the foot-and-mouth outbreak – Wallace recalls a game in the old Lansdowne Road where he was motivated by nerves and fear.
“That was a big match, my first time playing against England at senior level,” he said. “The year before Ireland had been hockeyed in Twickenham, and that was a world-class English team.
“You are full of fear which is positive in some ways – you know you have to go out and perform and be so clinical. You can’t give them an inch. Your back is against the wall.
“The year before it was a landslide [50-18] and you don’t want to be on the back of one of those. That’s where you are coming from. You know you have to raise your game or else it’s going to get very embarrassing for you.”
Victory for England will see the history books rewritten, but would defeat for Ireland mean the same? Joe Schmidt’s winning percentage post-World Cup will drop to below 50% - and last year’s historic wins will feel like distant memories. “It is still a team that has bags of potential, but you’re not going to get it all your own way,” Wallace argues. “They’re up there to be knocked down now after last year, it’s about getting used to that mental situation. Wales were gunning for them, Scotland were gunning for them too. That’s why England’s achievements would be much more impressive if they win this weekend.”
Meanwhile Lansdowne’s Scott Deasy captains the Ireland Club team to play England Counties in tomorrow night’s Ulster Bank Club International (Temple Hill, 7.30pm).
E Mills, (Lansdowne), S Coughlan, (Old Belvedere), M Courtney, (Dublin University), M D’Arcy, (Clontarf), * R Jermyn, (Cork Constitution), S Deasy , (Lansdowne), *(Captain) N Cronin , (Garryowen), * V Abdeladze, (Clontarf), M Abbott, (Cork Constitution), I Prendiville, (Lansdowne), * W Earle, (Lansdowne), B Reilly, (Clontarf),* A Kennedy, (Young Munster), K Moran, (Clontarf), T Ryan, (Clontarf )*
P Finlay, (Dublin University), * G Sweeney, (Cork Constitution), * E O’Sullivan, (Dublin University), K McCoy, (Terenure College), A O’Byrne, (Garryowen), P Pritchard, (Old Belvedere),* R Guerin, (Young Munster), P Osborne, (Naas).
*Previously capped at this level.
- David Wallace was speaking at the launch of the ‘Share the Number, Share the Light’ campaign by Pieta House, supported by Aviva Insurance. The campaign takes place at this weekend’s RBS 6 Nations game between Ireland and England at the Aviva. It will see the Pieta House freephone number 1800 247 247 being shared across all Stadium media before and during the game and 20% of all tea and coffee sales going to the charity.