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Paul O’Connell: Ireland must brace for a ‘big show’ from England

Ireland striker coach Paul O’Connell fears Guinness Six Nations title rivals England are “close to a big feat”.

ndy Farrell’s side need to win at Twickenham next weekend to keep their title-winning quest alive.

Eddie Jones’ hosts are in a similar situation to the Irish, who have recorded two wins and one loss so far, with both sides looking to overtake Grand Slam pursuers France.

After losing to Scotland in the first round of the tournament, new-looking England rallied to brush aside perpetual wooden spoon winners Italy before stuttering past Wales in the final.

O’Connell, who won three times as a player in the home of English rugby, faces great trials and admits Ireland need to hone all areas of their game.

“We have to improve everywhere,” he said. “We’re going to Twickenham with a full crowd.

“England, I think, is effervescent and on the verge of a big achievement, so every part of what we do needs to be done better.

“There’s no specific range, but everything just needs to be a little bit more specific. One of the great things about being away from home is just staying calm. That’s one of the big things for the boys.

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Ireland play in the fourth round of the Six Nations 2022 in Twickenham (Adam Davy/PA)

“When these guys play for Ireland there is never a lack of intent, passion or emotion. It’s easy to stay calm on the big occasion.”

Ireland dispatched an exhausted Italy on Sunday to record 14 Dublin wins from 15 under head coach Farrell.

Away games have proved far more difficult during the Farrell era, with triumphs at Murrayfield and Rome being the only two wins from seven games played.

Two of those defeats came at Twickenham in 2020.

Hooker Rob Herring, who has returned from a calf problem as a substitute against the Azzurri and has been a rival from the start with Dan Sheehan, believes a big win away is the next step in the team’s development.

“It’s hugely important for us,” said South African-born Herring.

“When we go to England we challenge ourselves to play the game we want to play and we’re not afraid that we do.

“Doing it away from home in a cauldron like Twickenham, the atmosphere there, it’s a different experience.

“It’s really good for the growth of the group when we perform well.”

Ireland’s preparations were hampered by the absence of base Andrew Porter for the remainder of the tournament with an ankle problem.

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Rob Herring aims to reclaim Ireland’s number two shirt (Adam Davy/PA)

His colleague Ronan Kelleher was already ruled out after suffering a shoulder problem in the second round loss to France, leaving Herring in contention with Sheehan for the number two spot.

“I think hooker is a very competitive position across Ireland at the moment,” said the Ulster man.

“In the last Six Nations I started a couple of games, the lads came in and took their chances. I think we have a group here where we’re all trying to push each other on.

“I want to fight for this jersey and start, but each week I will take on any role that the team asks of me.

“They are good guys (Sheehan and Kelleher) and we all work hard together to improve the group.”

https://www.independent.ie/sport/paul-oconnell-ireland-must-be-prepared-for-a-big-performance-from-england-41408389.html Paul O’Connell: Ireland must brace for a ‘big show’ from England

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