Win over Ireland would be huge ‘tick’ for Eddie Jones

Top of the Six Nations, a 100% record and no tries conceded. It is safe to say that the Eddie Jones era has begun exactly how the Australian would have wanted.

But with Ireland on the horizon, England’s biggest challenge so far undoubtedly awaits them at Twickenham a week tomorrow.

After successive Six Nations triumphs, Jones has labelled Ireland as the benchmark of European rugby and despite failing to secure a victory in their opening two matches, Joe Schmidt’s side will undoubtedly represent the new England coach’s toughest opponent to date.

Scotland and Italy have been seen off, but Jones is fully aware of the need to step up for his first game at Twickenham.

It is a view shared by former England captain Lewis Moody, who won the World Cup in 2003 before going on to lead the country.

Like Jones, Moody sees Ireland as one of the premier teams in the northern hemisphere, even though they are riddled with injuries.

And if Jones is looking to make his mark then Moody believes victory over Ireland will be high on the Australian’s list of targets.

“If England can get past Ireland in the Six Nations at home, that would be a huge tick in Eddie Jones’ locker because there will be a huge amount of respect for what they can deliver as a side,” said Moody.

“I think it is very difficult with the Irish because obviously they had 60 odd years in between winning Grand Slams. They have now won two Six Nations back to back.

“I think with confident sides; guys that have played in teams that know they can win, know how to win and win on a regular basis then it becomes second nature. The difficulty Ireland have now they’ve lost some really key figures.

“Rory Best now comes in, a talismanic figure, a little bit like Dylan Hartley who plays on the edge. It’s just whether they can back it up with the injuries that they have had. Will they rise to the occasion? I’m pretty sure they will. They will be a very difficult side to play.”

Ireland’s Six Nations campaign has been hampered by injuries that also thwarted their World Cup hopes.

Sean O’Brien is the latest to be sidelined after the flanker suffered a hamstring problem, while Dave Kearney, Jared Payne and Mike McCarthy are doubtful for the trip to Twickenham.

It leaves Ireland stretched once again and Moody believes a degree of sympathy must be given to Schmidt as injuries derail his Six Nations campaign.

“I think you have got to feel sorry for Ireland with fielding a huge number of injuries again, which is bitterly disappointing because you want to see the best 15 on the pitch every time you get to see your international side play,” Moody added.

“But the nature of rugby is that it is a brutal sport and you have to deal with that.

“I think Wales and Ireland were unlucky in terms of injuries during the World Cup. Had they not suffered so brutally they would have probably gone on a little bit further.

“To see Scotland progress as they did was a real positive. So what we need to see now is that backed up in the Six Nations.

“We need to see the quality of those performance backed up again now as the majority of those guys, bar Ireland, have virtually all their players back.”

Ireland’s quarter-final exit from the World Cup coincided with Scotland and Wales being knocked out, leaving the semi-final without northern hemisphere representation.

Some have questioned if the southern hemisphere is leaving European rugby in its wake and whether the Six Nations needs to be reformatted. But Moody believes the tournament is one of world premier tournaments.

“I don’t think it needs to re-establish itself. It will always be one of those landmark events during the rugby calendar year,” said Moody.

“The Six Nations is just historically one of those incredible tournaments.”

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