George Ford has warned his England team mates to bring their best against Ireland – or FEAR the consequences.
England’s fit-again fly-half learns today what role Eddie Jones has in mind for him in Saturday’s Nations Cup pool A clash.
But he is sure he already knows how Andy Farrell’s Ireland will respond to being well beaten by England in the last three meetings.
And he cautioned: “You’ve got to have a bit of fear in you that if you’re not quite there against a team like Ireland you’re going to be in trouble. They will make you pay.
“What you know when you’re playing against Ireland is that you’re going to be challenged. We need to be right on it both from a mental and physical point of view.”
Ford’s warning came as Ireland named a team without either Lions half-back Johnny Sexton or Conor Murray. The last time that happened against England was 2011.
Ross Byrne gets only his second start at fly-half – the first having come in a record 57-15 hammering by England in August last year.
Kiwi-born scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park also starts just his second Test, with James Ryan captaining the side for the first time.
But Ford said: “Ireland are a team now where you could drop any 10 in and they will go really well. They are very well coached with lots of experienced players.
“In terms of our mindset we just have to be better – better than we have been in the last few weeks – and understand that it will be a different challenge.”
Ford’s return is a major boost as he is such a smart player. England coped without him against Italy and Georgia but against a top-five ranked nation his brains will be needed.
Round the clock treatment on an Achilles problem, including an hour a day in an oxygen chamber, has delivered him back to fitness.
“I feel great, honestly I do,” he said. “It is the best it’s felt on the field, running around in training, not being aware of it. So I’m happy.”
England sent for reinforcements yesterday to prepare for the Irish, welcoming five players from Harlequins into their camp for ‘specific game training’.
The five were Covid-tested before arrival, used a separate changing area, a different car park and entrance and did not enter the secure team bubble.
Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot confirmed the intensity of the session had “kicked up a notch” and put it down to Saturday’s opponents.
“This is a step up to a team that is really performing well,” he said. “You sense the different intensity in training, the difference in the discussions about the players, the sharing of information.
“The guys are well aware of how tough this encounter is going to be. The Irish pack was very powerful against Wales, very destructive. They put them under immense pressure.”
IRELAND: Keenan; Earls, Farrell, Aki, Lowe; R Byrne, Gibson-Park; Healy, Kelleher, Porter; Roux, Ryan (capt); Stander, O’Mahony, Doris.
Replacements: Herring, E Byrne, Bealham, Henderson, Connors, Murray, B Burns, Stockdale.