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Sunday 30 April 2017

Earls is Ireland's doubt as Feek backs Schmidt not to change for England

Keith Earls. Pic: Sportsfile
Keith Earls. Pic: Sportsfile

Keith Earls has emerged as Ireland's most serious doubt as they plot to spoil England's designs on a Grand Slam party in Dublin.

The wing wizard sat on the sidelines at Carton House yesterday due to a tight groin and has been given until tomorrow to prove his fitness.

The in-form Munster man has given Ireland a real change-up in terms of footwork in this Six Nations and was their most dangerous three-quarter in Cardiff.

Half-backs Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton were able to take part in the session to provide coach Joe Schmidt with two of his most solid building blocks.

In one sense, Ireland are back where they were in November in planning to take away England's world record bid for nineteen wins in a row just as they did to the All Blacks in Chicago.

As a New Zealander, Feek doesn't need any extra motivation to put a stop to England's gallop.

"My priority is just to help to prepare our guys for a performance this week that we're proud of and that our supporters can be proud of, first and foremost.

"There's so many things outside of that that can be almost a distraction," he said.

"I have the utmost respect for what the All Blacks and England have done with that record and even to have equaled it. But, there's nothing I can really do about it apart from do my job."

The achievement of 18 straight wins demands the utmost respect for the consistency of winning whether playing up to or below the standards set.

"I think in the last three or four years we've brought ourselves into a position to be in the top five in the world..

"That speaks for itself," he said. "It's tough to be up there in that area. You need to be winning either against big teams or winning consistently to be up in that ranking."

At the moment, the pressure is on Ireland to do to England what they did to New Zealand.

"The players are aware of it. They have been for a long time, since November when people started talking about it," Feek said.

Sailing

"We just need to make sure we're sailing in the right direction and don't get too far off what's important for us."

However, Schmidt will not change his 'modus operandi.'

"Joe is a workaholic and that doesn't change," said the scrum coach.

"He's a good communicator. That hasn't changed.

"His belief in what the players can do just as individuals, his staff and himself, hasn't changed."

Ireland who will have to change not what they do, but how they do it.

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