Ireland will move above England to second in the latest World Rugby rankings issued today, adding fuel to Saturday’s trip to Twickenham with Joe Schmidt warning his Grand Slam-chasing side to expect an almighty backlash from Eddie Jones’s wounded animals.
Back-to-back defeats for the English have helped the Irish to a third Six Nations title in five seasons under Schmidt, with Ireland’s 28-8 victory over Scotland making it a third bonus-point win of the campaign and wrapping up the Championship for the men in green with a week still to go.
Yet there remains plenty of reasons for England to bite back in London on St Patrick’s Day with revenge for last year’s defeat in Dublin, when they were denied a second Grand Slam in as many seasons by Ireland sure to be uppermost in their thoughts, despite their denials at the weekend.
England wing Jonny May also underlined the hurt being felt within his squad after their hopes of a hat-trick of Six Nations successes went south following their 22-16 reverse in France on Saturday night, which had followed the previous round’s surrender to Scotland at Murrayfield.
“We will be more focused on showing pride. It is not a case of stopping them (Ireland),” May said.
That will have confirmed what Schmidt was suspecting when he agreed that a wounded England under Eddie Jones was a dangerous animal.
“I think they’re going to be really dangerous,” the Ireland boss said.
“Up front, the real experience they have. I don’t know if (hooker and captain) Dylan Hartley will be back but Jamie George (deputising for him Saturday) is a fantastic player and was in the Lions. So across the board, you know how tough that is going to be. They’re wounded, but they’re far from dead and buried. They’ll have a resolve to come back and beat us next week.”
Preparations for Twickenham were set to resume today at the Irish training base at Carton House as Ireland look to recover as quickly as possible from Saturday’s bruising victory over the Scots.
But on Saturday night there was time enough for Schmidt to reflect on the three Six Nations titles he had enjoyed as Ireland boss.
The first came in his first season as head coach, secured with a last-day win in Paris and Ireland became back-to-back champions having swatted aside Scotland at Murrayfield before waiting to see if England could outdo them against France at Twickenham.
"Since then, 2015, we were in suits shouting at Uini Atonio to keep the ball and not let it squirt out because England might score and the championship could be lost so we are cheering on one team to beat another — we had no control.
"Saturday was a little bit similar, same two teams, different result and a different result for us but to give us that clear air to go to Twickenham with the championship. For me it is an incredible relief and it is incredibly satisfying because of how hard the players have worked.
"Honestly, they are a great hardworking bunch and I’ll probably even broaden that to the management.
“I know, fair play to Johnny, he mentioned them but the nutrition, the medical, we had even Barnhall rugby guys down at Carton House helping the Carton House staff clear a pitch so we could get half a pitch to train on Monday. You know that is the kind of community support we have.”
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