England 'well prepared', insists Farrell
Rugby:Andy Farrell vowed England would not let history repeat itself when they tackle Ireland at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow in what he rates as one of the biggest challenges in world rugby.
England have not won an Six Nations match on Irish soil in a decade and two years ago their Grand Slam dreams were destroyed when Martin Johnson’s team were caught cold.
With all the hype surrounding the game, England decided on a low-key build-up and they ended up being blown away by Ireland’s heightened levels of ferocity and intensity. But England have learned from those mistakes and Farrell insisted his men would concede nothing in the passion stakes as they bid to end a decade of disappointment in Ireland.
“This game is as big as any game you get in world rugby,” said Farrell, the England assistant coach. “Coming to Dublin is as big a challenge as anywhere really, because of the history and rivalry and just how good the two teams are.
“It is a challenge we are definitely ready for and up for. Graham Rowntree [Farrell’s fellow assistant coach] was part of that game two years ago and on reflection they got the preparation wrong, with it being too low key. Our preparation has been intense and we feel that is appropriate. We are really well prepared.”
It is not just what happened two years ago which highlights the need for England to start quickly, it is what happened only last week at the Millennium Stadium.
Ireland stormed into a 27-point lead against Wales before holding out to open their campaign with a 30-22 victory in Cardiff.
“We know the passion there is going to be and the intensity Irish sides bring,” said England captain Chris Robshaw. “We are under no illusions exactly how hard and how intense it is going to be but these are the games you want to play.
“As a squad, we have had spikes of intensity all week.”
England head into the game on the back of two confidence-boosting victories, having backed up their record triumph over New Zealand with a convincing win against Scotland.
England scored 38 points on both occasions and Farrell is pleased with the consistency of performance and the sense that a winning culture is beginning to develop in the squad.
“What we have got really good at now is a consistent level of performance,” he said. “There is a step on from that which is consistent level of performance that has a winning edge. The cutting edge part of winning Test matches is still a work in progress but we are getting there.”
England have made just one change from the Scotland victory with James Haskell starting at blindside flanker in a reshuffled back row, with Tom Wood switching to number eight.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster resisted the temptation to bring Manu Tuilagi straight back into the starting line-up after the Leicester powerhouse recovered from an ankle injury.
Tuilagi will instead be unleashed from the bench, with Billy Twelvetrees retained at inside centre following his eye-catching debut against Scotland.
Brad Barritt will continue to run the red rose defence from outside centre, a key role given England are opposite the most experienced midfield partnership in history in Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy.