Ireland clash ‘going to be a ding-dong’ says England’s Joe Marler

Prop admits England training session on Tuesday was ‘tasty’ ahead of Twickenham

Joe Marler has revealed that England's training sessions have become edgier in anticipation of the step up presented by Ireland in Saturday's Six Nations clash.

The losing side at Twickenham will be eliminated from the title race heading into the final round with Grand Slam-chasing France completing the trio of rivals battling to seize Wales’ crown.

England face their toughest assignments of the Championship starting against Andy Farrell's side, who find themselves in the rare position of being favourites in the eyes of bookmakers, as well as Eddie Jones.

Marler insists the understanding of what is to come led to a particularly feisty practice session on Tuesday as they look to build on a hard-fought victory over Wales in round three.

“It was a great training session. It was a really nice, tasty one actually. There’s definitely a bigger sense of ‘Okay, Ireland are very good’,” the Harlequins prop said.

“England v Wales games are always big and you know come kick-off it’s going to be tasty against them, but with the greatest respect Wales were missing a fair few names.

“And there was probably a little more expectation on us to win that game, whereas Ireland are full bore and have been together for some time now.

“It was definitely noticeable in training. The hits tend to be a little bit stickier and there’s a little bit more sharpness.

“Boys were like ‘Okay, serious game this Saturday’, and I’m not saying that last Saturday wasn’t serious.

“Whenever I try to make a gag, sometimes I get a couple of laughs out of it, but today they weren’t having any of it.

“They were looking at me like ‘shut up’. And I was like, ‘right, okay. You lot are serious today’.”

Former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan has stoked the fires ahead of the 139th meeting between the rivals by declaring England will be looking to make it a “bar-room brawl” because “they are not in a good place”.

The stakes are high for the hosts as defeat would leave them needing to topple France in Paris in order to avoid being marooned in the bottom half of the table.

Last year’s fifth-place finish left Jones fighting for his Twickenham future and a similar outcome this time around would make his position precarious yet again, only now with the 2023 World Cup just 18 months away.

“I’m trying to think of the last bar-room brawl I was in. Is it going to be like that? It’s probably a fair assumption,” Marler said.

“I quite like that. A nice clean bar brawl though, none of the dirty stuff. No gouging or glass throwing. Just the clean stuff.

“It’s going to be tasty. They are very, very aggressive at the breakdown. Ireland love chucking numbers in there.

“Off the top of my head, you get 40-plus attempts at attacking our breakdown from Ireland. It’s going to be a ding-dong.”

An influential force for the visiting pack at the breakdown will be Tadhg Furlong, the Lions' first choice tighthead prop, who Marler has started against on three previous occasions.

“Tadhg is world class. He has actually stepped up his game around the field, particularly in an attack and even more so this season,” Marler said.

“You have seen in this tournament that he is standing more at second and third receiver off the 10, so they are doing a lot of playmaking through him. He’s just so comfortable on the ball.

"I try and think of it sometimes as a fan and you go, well, look at that massive lump on the field that you just think is going to bend over and push, but the likes of him and Kyle Sinckler are just taking frontrow play to another level."

Sam Underhill's only hope of featuring in this Six Nations is if he is involved against France after failing to make the reduced 26-man squad retained on Tuesday night to step up preparations for Ireland.

Along with lock Nick Isiekwe, Underhill is one of eight players sent back to their clubs with the flanker only one match into his return from a lengthy spell of concussion.

Tom Curry is running out of time to prove his fitness after being concussed against Wales as he continues to negotiate the return to play protocols knowing that Thursday is the final significant training session of the week.

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