Jones believes England are on the cusp of a big display

England’s bullish coach promises his side will harry Ireland at every opportunity

Eddie Jones cannot even pop out to a cafe without being told his side must raise their game considerably to beat Ireland.

When his local barista, as allegedly happened this week, starts expressing doubts about England finishing the Six Nations with a flourish, it is small wonder Jones is labelling Ireland as "red-hot favourites" ahead of tomorrow's showdown at Twickenham.

Even allowing for a whiff of artistic licence, Jones’s account of the conversation will certainly raise a wry smile across the Irish Sea.

“The girl says: ‘That Irish team must be good. All their ex-players think they’re going to win and all the ex-England players think they’re going to win. They must be pretty good. How you feeling?’ I said: ‘Just give me the coffee please.’”


Boom boom. If England wish to avoid their 2022 championship campaign ending bitterly they will need to wake up and smell whatever it takes to elevate them to the next level.

The good news for Jones is that the matchday squad to face Ireland includes all the players who have been slightly doubtful this week, with the influential Tom Curry having passed his return-to-play protocols. Kyle Sinckler has also been named in the starting line-up despite a back problem while Alex Dombrandt is on the bench having convinced the management he has recovered fully from a touch of Covid.

If Jones did not sound 100 per cent confident about Sinckler – “We think he is going to be right” – he was in no doubt about the key areas and vital personnel if England are to gain revenge for their 32-18 defeat in Dublin 12 months ago.

With Sam Simmonds at No 8 and Joe Marchant at No 13 there are just four starting survivors from that encounter, and Jones wants his reshuffled side to concentrate on shutting down Ireland’s strengths.

“Whenever you play Ireland the breakdown is a significant part of the game,” stressed Jones.

“They pride themselves on that area, but we are a very physical team and they haven’t played against a side as physical as us for a long time. If you look at their record, they haven’t played against South Africa since 2017. We played against South Africa last year and did well in those physical stakes so we intend to really take it to them.”

Go after

With Marchant preferred to Elliot Daly for his aerial prowess and slightly more direct approach, England are also hoping the long-awaited return of Joe Launchbury to a matchday squad will help stiffen their maul late in the second half and further inconvenience a settled, cohesive Irish side.

“We have one intention in this game and that’s to go after Ireland,” said Jones, reaching for a now-familiar metaphor.

“We are going to chase them hard down the street. Everywhere they go, we’re going to be in their faces and we’re going to take time and space away from them. Do we enjoy that challenge? Yes.”

It is also worth mentioning that, for all Ireland’s strengths and impressive record of 10 wins in their previous 11 Tests, England have won their last three home games against Australia, South Africa and Wales. Jones remains adamant that a spectacular attacking display is brewing and will soon materialise.

“It’s like a wave coming in. You can see it coming in and all of a sudden it crashes and all this power comes out of it. That’s what we’ll be like.

“We’re not far away. We’re one pass, one accurate kick, one good support line away from being very good. I’ve got a picture in my head and it’s a very good picture. But we’re a work in progress. No progression is a linear progression. If it was a linear progression everyone would do it and it’d be easy. It’s not. There’s ups and downs and you’ve got to ride that.”

A clearly motivated Maro Itoje has even started channelling the Book of Job – "Our future will be brighter than our past" – before a weekend when the Rugby Football Union will fly the national flag of Ukraine at Twickenham in between those of England and Ireland.

The fact, though, that Jones has stopped watching the morning news to avoid becoming distracted is another clear indication that England are treating this game with the utmost seriousness.