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Monday 16 October 2017

Schmidt believes that a shock is coming

Marmion, Henderson and Payne must step up to humble England

Ireland’s kicking coach Richie Murphy, head coach Joe Schmidt and defence coach Andy
Farrell during Ireland squad training at Carton House, Maynooth yesterday. Pic: Sportsfile
Ireland’s kicking coach Richie Murphy, head coach Joe Schmidt and defence coach Andy Farrell during Ireland squad training at Carton House, Maynooth yesterday. Pic: Sportsfile

Coach Joe Schmidt sees Ireland and England as a little and large battle, not unlike that of a family feud.

"They are the big brother," he said.

"They are the guy you look over your shoulder and you are a little bit envious of."

That certainly seems to be the case as England come looking for a world-record 19th win in-a-row to surpass New Zealand.

"You're always going to try to get one over your big brother.

"I think that's a natural personality trait," he continued.

"At the same time, there's a little bit of angst and anxiety when the big brother is looking over the fence."

Envy

The envy comes from the level of consistency England have attained and retained.

"They are the number two side in the world," he declared. "They have put together 18 consecutive Test match victories, three of them against the number three team in the world (Australia) on their own patch."

They came to Dublin looking for a Grand Slam as recently as 2011 and looking for a statement in 2015.

Ireland scrum-half Kieran Marmion following a press conference at Carton House in Maynooth. Pics: Sportsfile
Ireland scrum-half Kieran Marmion following a press conference at Carton House in Maynooth. Pics: Sportsfile

They were unceremoniously dumped on their backsides.

But, this is a different England.

"I don't think they are intimidated going somewhere else," said Schmidt.

England will have nine starters back from the side that was toppled 19-9 two years ago. They will know what to expect from a boisterous Aviva Stadium.

"I don't think that puts them off their stride at all," he added.

"I think they have got such competition for places in their own team that they have to be kept up to their work."

The loss of Rob Kearney to a knee injury - he will see a specialist - for Jared Payne is far from terminal. The failure of Conor Murray to recover from his shoulder bang could well be.

The weaknesses in Kieran Marmion's game are his kicking-to-contest and his passing.

That is going to load even more pressure onto Jonathan Sexton.

Then, there is the cause to drop Devin Toner for an element of fatigue for the freshness of Iain Henderson.

This reduces Ireland's lineout options to one specialist in Donnacha Ryan and a number of optional extras in Henderson, Jamie Heaslip and CJ Stander with Peter O'Mahony clicking his heels on the bench.

This will double the pressure on captain Rory Best to throw with the accuracy of Phil 'The Power' Taylor.

Schmidt sampled recent sporting shocks to illustrate how there are no certainties in sport.

"Any team can be beaten on their day. I think we have seen a bit of that lately.

"Who would have picked Barcelona to turn around that PSG result? Who would have picked Douvan to get beaten at 1/4 on?

"Who would have picked us to win in Chicago at 13/1 in a two-horse race?

"That's what people love about sport. Can we do it? We have to believe we can.

"We have got to go out there with that absolute belief that we can and we know that, at the same time, if we don't get as much as possible right, we know that they will be too good."

England have been able to recall the thunderous Billy Vunipola and venomous Anthony Watson to their starting side.

Schmidt even sees the gap between the number one and two in the world closing.

"They are stacking up better and better," he stated. "Unfortunately, through the championship, they are getting Anthony Watson and Billy Vunipola back.

"Probably a frustration for us is they are getting guys back and we're bleeding a few guys that offer that experience and real quality particularly in Conor.

"The depth of what they have got is formidable. Across the park, it is really hard to see where the weaknesses lie.

"We are going to have to be at our utmost best."

For all the talk about England as a coming force, they have eight men with 50 caps, or more, topped by their captain Dylan Hartley on the eve of his 84th appearance.

They do not have one player with single-figure caps, the lowest total belonging to Maro Itoje, who will earn his 12th tomorrow.

"Ireland not having anything to play for means they have the courage to fail which frees them up mentally," said coach Eddie Jones.

"We are a little bit vulnerable because we have already been crowned the Six Nations champions.

"We had a big win against Scotland, so for us it's getting the right mind-set for the game."

They won't have any trouble doing that and what are Ireland going to do about it?

The Irish leaders Best, Ryan, Jamie Heaslip, Sexton and Payne have to be on top of their game.

Ireland: J Payne; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; J Sexton, K Marmion; J McGrath, R Best (capt), T Furlong; I Henderson, D Ryan; CJ Stander, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

England: M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, O Farrell, E Daly; G Ford, B Youngs; J Marler, D Hartley (capt), D Cole; J Launchbury, C Lawes; M Itoje, J Haskell, B Vunipola.

Verdict: England

Ireland v England, Aviva Stadium, tomorrow, 5.00 (live RTÉ2)

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