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'A step up from what we've played so far': How England eye Ireland

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Richard Cockerill is braced for a thorough round four Guinness Six Nations examination when England host Ireland at Twickenham on March 12. Eddie Jones’ new assistant is working his way through his first championship campaign as the English forwards coach and despite getting beaten by Scotland and annoyed by Wales, he reckons the threat posed by Andy Farrell’s Irish is the biggest will have faced in 2022.     

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“They are a very good side, they play a really good style of rugby, very physical the way they carry the ball and the way their forward pack go about their business, and their backs have been impressive,” he said. “So they are a very good side and one to be well respected, so we are looking forward to the game but we know it is going to be a step up from what we have played so far.

“They are very good at their set-piece and it is going to be a real battle, both scrum and lineout. That is going to be where the game is probably won or lost. We know what they are going to bring and we aim to match that and make it a fierce contest.”

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Second place Ireland are currently a point ahead of England on the table having taken a bonus point in all three of their games and the outcome of their round four encounter will determine which team remains in the title hunt heading into the final round of matches on March 19. 

Ireland are Twickenham-bound have enjoyed a pyrrhic victory of Italy last Sunday in Dublin, a spectacle ruined by having uncontested scrums for the guts of an hour and the Italians getting reduced to 13 players in the process. 

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What did Cockerill make of the strange situation that unfolded? “It’s a little bit unique because with the hooker getting injured very early and then the other hooker getting sent off it made the whole thing conspire against the reason why the laws were brought in. 

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“In isolation, it’s not a great spectacle for the game and it does ruin the game to a point but it’s a unique situation where an injury happens and then the player in the same position gets sent off. Player safety is paramount and you’re unlikely to see a similar situation happen again. It’s pretty unusual to happen.”

What effect will it have on Ireland, though, as they weren’t genuinely tested? “It’s hard to know. It is difficult when you get into that scenario. Uncontested scrums make everybody have a bit more energy, and 13 men and how you play it makes it very difficult. I’m sure it is not ideal for Ireland but look, they are a good side, they have got a lot of experience in their squad so if anything they will be fresher than they would have been.” 

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