But although recent history is on England’s side against Irish rugby – with the three recent Test victories added to by Saracens’ stunning Champions Cup quarter-final victory over Leinster in September – Itoje believes it would be foolish to allow those results to determine expectations this time around.
“I think it was a decent performance by us,” Itoje said of February’s Six Nations win. “We got the basics of our game well, but I don’t want to dwell too much on what has happened previously because it doesn’t really matter.
“Often you can look at history for what is going to happen next but it is going to be a completely different, fresh and new challenge. I am the type of person that likes to focus on what is coming and I am just really excited to get out there and play.”
That excitement has brought an edge out of the England camp this week, according to Vunipola. “You might not see it or hear it but walking around and the way the boys are carrying themselves, especially today, you can see that there’s a quiet confidence about us,” he added, “and also a little bit of that nervous energy which is never a bad thing.”
England: Elliot Daly; Jonathan Joseph, Ollie Lawrence, Henry Slade, Jonny May; Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler; Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury; Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Tom Dunn, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, George Ford, Max Malins.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter; Quinn Roux, James Ryan; CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Will Connors, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale.
This weekend get a £10 free bet with Betfair, when you bet £10 on a Same Game Multi on the Premier League. Terms: Min £10 Same Game Multi bet on any EPL match this Fri – Sun. Free bet valid for 72 hours, awarded at bet settlement. Excludes cashed out bets. T&Cs apply.
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