Ireland eye Six Nations title but Farrell still wary of England

Ireland eye Six Nations title but Farrell still wary of England

Andy Farrell has insisted his native England remain capable of scuppering Ireland's bid for successive Grand Slams even though the visitors will be overwhelming favourites to win Saturday's Six Nations clash at Twickenham.

Andy Farrell

Ireland head coach Farrell's men have been the outstanding team of the tournament, with bonus-point wins over France, Italy and Wales suggesting their failure to get beyond the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup in France and England's third-place finish was as much to do with an absurdly lopsided draw as anything else.

Another bonus point success at Twickenham would mean reigning Six Nations champions Ireland had retained their title with a game to spare by winning their fifth successive match against England.

And with fit-again full-back Hugo Keenan restored to the side, Ireland are arguably an even stronger outfit than the team that defeated Wales 31-7 in Dublin last time out.

England, by contrast, go into the game on the back of a 30-21 Calcutta Cup defeat in Edinburgh that was more emphatic than indicated by Scotland's nine-point margin of victory.

But with Ireland bidding to become ther first team in the Six Nations era to win back-to-back Grand Slams, a cautious Farrell said of England: "We just prepare for them to be at their best and if that's the case it's going to be one hell of a battle."

Farrell won eight England caps as a player before becoming a member of Stuart Lancaster's Red Rose coaching staff only to be let go by incoming boss Eddie Jones following the team's woeful first-round exit on home soil at the 2015 World Cup.

But Farrell, the father of England record points-scorer Owen Farrell, insisted Saturday's match was "no different to any other game".

- 'Right decisions' -

Many coaches say they want their team to 'play what is in front of them' but few mean it or have sufficiently skilled players available.

And when it was suggested to Farrell that Ireland needed to be more "direct" in attack than against Wales, his reply was telling.

"When people say you've got to be more direct, let's do that for the first 20 minutes and let's see if we can win collisions that way, well then you're taking away everyone's decision making within that type of game," said Farrell, who will be in charge of the 2025 British and Irish Lions in Australia.

"It's just making the right decisions at the right time and being able to be calm enough to see that and feel that and do that. Directness isn't just about punching holes because if we do that into a white wall, we'll be going backwards."

England, by contrast, still look uncertain in their game management for all their side features experienced campaigners in captain Jamie George, as well as fly-half George Ford.

Red Rose boss Steve Borthwick has given a first Test start to Immanuel Feyi-Waboso but doubts remain over whether the rest of a side featuring fit-again scrum-half Alex Mitchell and a reshuffled shuffled pack, with Ollie Chessum moving from lock to blindside flanker, can get the ball to the 21-year-old wing in an attacking position.

"This is a team that is growing fast," said England coach Borthwick, who insisted they had learned from their Murrayfield mistakes as he lauded Ireland.

"We know we're going against the world's best team right now but I also think that's a challenge the players are relishing.

"I've seen the England team in recent times going into situations where the opposition were fancied ahead of us and I've seen them jump at the challenge and I sense that from them now."



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