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I expect Ireland to complete the Grand Slam today in Dublin but I also expect England to show up. If England have anything about them they have to right some wrongs today. There cannot be a repeat of last weekend’s horrendous capitulation against France. This is England. That means a lot. Or it should do. Today we find out just how much the red rose means to these players.
In the 2007 World Cup an England side I was part of lost 36-0 to South Africa in the group stages. That experience triggered a response which saw us roll up our sleeves and scrap our way to the final.
This England side was embarrassed at Twickenham seven days ago. They were beaten badly in every area by the French. Their own crowd left early. They gave up on them.
There may be nothing to play for in terms of the championship but there is everything to play for today in terms of reputation.
They could not have more of a reason to put in a proper performance, to show the French game was a one-off.
There has to be a reaction. That doesn’t have to mean winning at the Aviva Stadium but it does mean taking the fight to Ireland.
If you were beaten to a breakdown last week, make sure you are first there this week. If you were bumped off in a tackle, win that collision. Be obsessed. Show you care. Look at the match-ups on the team sheet.
Freddie Steward against Hugo Keenan at full-back – a battle of two aerial titans. Ellis Genge against Tadhg Furlong at prop – a face-off between two fantastic all-round modern-day props. Manu Tuilagi against Bundee Aki at centre – an explosion waiting to happen. It’s not just Ireland who have good players.
So let’s see England bring what they have to the St Paddy’s party – because if they are not going to do so today after what they experienced last weekend, then when will they?
This championship has separated out, as I anticipated, with Ireland and France well out in front of the rest but I’ve also been impressed with the strides Scotland and Italy have made.
I know the Italians haven’t won a game but some of the rugby they have played has been outstanding – especially against the top two.
While France could still win the title today but Ireland are too good a team to allow this chance of history to slip through their fingers. Andy Farrell will have made sure of that.
I spent a lot of years with him in a Wigan changing room and I can almost hear his voice now forcefully banishing any complacency ahead of kick-off today.
He has built a relentless team in his own image, one that knows how to win whatever the circumstances, wherever the game is played.
There are echoes for me of England’s 2003 side in their mindset.
He has always been a winner and he will take this superb Ireland team closer than any before to winning a World Cup.
Jason Robinson was speaking in association with Vodafone Business
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