George Ford insists England will tap into the anguish of their last Guinness Six Nations meeting with Ireland at Twickenham in an attempt to halt their rivals’ Grand Slam march.
Two years ago the St Patrick’s Day festivities were ignited by a 24-15 victory that completed only the third clean sweep in Irish rugby history.
England have since recorded comprehensive victories against them in home and away fixtures, most notably in Dublin last year, but the memory of Ireland celebrating the Grand Slam at Twickenham still bites.
Alongside France, Andy Farrell’s men are one of only two unbeaten teams left in the 2020 Championship and Ford sees an opportunity for revenge on Sunday.
“We remember two years ago,” said Ford. “We never like losing matches, particularly at home. Maybe in Test week we’ll dive into a few things to get us right emotionally.
“It’s a balance. You don’t want to look too far in the past but if it’s something you can use to get yourself to a higher level then you use it.
“This week we’ll work out what are the two or three critical things that we need to do to make sure we’re ready for this game.”
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Dublin victories over Scotland and Wales have placed Ireland in a commanding position but their trip to the home of Eddie Jones’ World Cup finalists is the biggest test of Farrell’s blossoming stewardship so far.
Ford insists the dual code international and former England defence coach, who is assisted by Mike Catt, is building on the foundations laid by predecessor Joe Schmidt.
“We understand that Ireland are a very good team, very well-coached, and have started the Six Nations very well, so we have huge respect for them,” Ford said.
“With Andy being primarily a defence coach, we understand they are going to be hard to break down from an attack point of view. They will be looking to bring some line speed and something a bit different against us.
One week to go 🌹
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“They are probably trying to develop their attack in terms of phase play stuff. They have got Mike Catt there as well and he thinks about the game from a very attacking point of view.
“The stuff Ireland are notoriously good at is the contact area, the kicking game, in the air and the contest at the breakdown.
“It is something they are very good at and why would you go away from it if you are very good at it?”
Ford is set to continue at fly-half against Ireland as England look to strengthen their own title claims.
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“We needed a win against Scotland, the result was massive,” the Leicester playmaker said.
“We had a disappointing result against France and when you start the Six Nations with a loss you’re on the back foot a little bit already.
“We didn’t have much time to reflect on France or mope around because only six days later we were playing again. The result was everything against Scotland.”