Warren Gatland has warned England they potentially face an extended slump as Eddie Jones sought to draw a line under the derogatory remarks made about Ireland and Wales.
On the same day that Jones declined to expand beyond the apology issued for having referred to Joe Schmidt’s newly-crowned champions as the “scummy Irish” and Wales as a “little s*** country”, Gatland cranked up the pressure on the Australian.
England enter Saturday’s showdown at Twickenham intent on preventing Ireland from completing the Grand Slam but with confidence sapped by a two-match losing run that has surrendered the title to Schmidt’s men with a round to spare.
Once the NatWest 6 Nations has been completed, a three-Test tour to South Africa awaits followed by autumn fixtures against the Springboks and New Zealand, prompting Gatland to suggest bleaker times may lie ahead for the Jones regime.
“I don’t think the pressure for England is about the comments. The pressure for England is about winning on Saturday,” Wales head coach Gatland said.
“That’s the pressure they are under, because they have to win on Saturday. That’s how important the game is to them because if they lose against Ireland they then have three games against South Africa.
“So they can go from a losing streak of two to six pretty quickly. They have got their own things to sort out.”
Speaking publicly on the matter for the first time at England’s team announcement press conference on Thursday, Jones refused to comment beyond adding to his apology.
“I’d just like to say I’ve apologised for the remarks. I sincerely mean that. I really don’t have anything else to say on the matter.”
Jones insisted the comments will have little influence on the desire of Schmidt’s men to complete only the third tournament clean sweep in their history.
“Ireland are preparing for a Grand Slam, they don’t need any extra motivation,” Jones said.
Ireland face opposition undergoing radical surgery in the form of 10 changes, three of them positional switches, following the 22-16 defeat by France in Paris five days ago.
George Ford is dropped for only the second time of the Jones era in response to a disappointing Six Nations in which he has struggled to exert any influence behind a pack that has been bullied.
Owen Farrell moves to fly-half with Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph forming a new look centre partnership and Elliot Daly has recovered from his foot injury to continue on the left wing.
Scrum-half Danny Care is demoted to the replacements, making way for Richard Wigglesworth, and Anthony Watson retains his full-back spot ahead of the benched Mike Brown.
Knee injuries to Nathan Hughes and Courtney Lawes see Sam Simmonds and James Haskell start, while captain Dylan Hartley is restored at hooker having recovered from a tight calf.