John Mitchell insists England refuse to be seduced by their four-Test winning run against Ireland as they prepare to face relentless opposition in Dublin on Saturday.
The rivals clash in their final outings of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations with Eddie Jones’ team looking to build on their 23-20 victory over France in round four that has rescued their championship from disaster.
England’s last loss in the fixture came in 2018 and since then Ireland have struggled to match their physicality, but defence coach Mitchell insists past results will be meaningless when the countries clash for the 138th time.
“You never have Ireland’s number. They’re a tenacious side and a tenacious country,” Mitchell said.
“They fight bloody hard for each other. They’ll rip in, there’s no doubt about that. But we’re ready for all that.
“They’ll see the breakdown as an opportunity against us. It’s going to be a war at the breakdown which is something we’re ready for.
“It comes down to being able to get on to the front foot and being able to implant how we want to play the game. We have to get on to the front foot and stop their momentum.”
France’s Grand Slam march was ended by a mixture of attacking endeavour and resilience, but Jones has cautioned against the expectation that England will be able to show similar enterprise against Ireland.
It is a theme continued by Mitchell following a training week during which extra time has been spent honing aerial skills in expectation of the hosts’ finely-tuned kicking game.
“We want to perform well and finish positively as a group. This game will be somewhat different to the last Test match and we need to be very clear about that,” Mitchell said.
“This game is going to be highly unstructured with a lot of kicking in the air and it will be very physical. It will certainly challenge us and them in different ways.
“What will actually unfold in the game is based around the characteristics that exist within the opposition.
“At scrum-half they’ve picked Conor Murray, who is excellent with his box kicking, and they’ve shown a tendency on advantage to go to the air as well, so we’re under no illusions what to expect.
“Ireland will rely on crumbs which can come from the aerial contest. That’s probably the area where everyone will have to be most alert.”
Among the key battles in Dublin will be the duel between fly-halves George Ford and Johnny Sexton.
Sexton turns 36 in July but Mitchell insists he remains the ringmaster of Ireland’s side as they go in search of a first win against major opposition since Andy Farrell took charge after the 2019 World Cup.
“Johnny is still a huge fulcrum in how he organises and drives them. You have to admire his competitiveness and drive,” Mitchell said.
“But definitely there are others being used as distributors from first phase. That allows Johnny to be involved in secondary attack and take away the ability to create inside pressure on him. He’s evolving his game subtlety to suit the needs of his team.”