They haven’t faced anything like us before – Eddie Jones throws down gauntlet

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Eddie Jones has questioned Ireland’s ability to match England’s physicality after claiming they have not faced a side as powerful as his Guinness Six Nations title challengers for five years – if at all.

The rivals clash at Twickenham on Saturday with the winners going on to challenge Grand Slam-chasing France for Wales’ crown in the final round.

Jones views Ireland as “red-hot favourites” and has stated that even when buying a coffee this week a barista wrote off England’s chances amid suggestions from retired Ireland players Jamie Heaslip and Stephen Ferris, as well as former head coach Eddie O’Sullivan, that his side are struggling.

Andy Farrell’s men were edged 30-24 by a highly impressive France in round two, but a defiant Jones still believes that Saturday’s collision will be step up they are unable to handle.

“Ireland haven’t played against a team like us before – they haven’t played against South Africa since 2017,” Jones said.

“We played against South Africa last year and did well in those physical stakes, so we intend to really take it to them.

“We play with a physicality they haven’t seen before. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do on Saturday.

“We have one intention in this game and that’s to go after Ireland. We are going to chase them hard down the street.

“Everywhere they go, we’re going to be in their faces and we’re going to take time and space away from them. Do we enjoy that challenge? Yes.

“This team don’t know how good they can be and we are certainly going to find out on Saturday how good we can be.”

Since falling at Murrayfield on the opening weekend, England have stitched together solid wins against Italy and Wales, but the demands increase significantly over the next two weekends.

Ireland have been excellent throughout this Six Nations
Ireland have been excellent throughout this Six Nations (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We’re not far away. We’re one pass, one accurate kick, one good support line away from being very good. But we’re a work in progress,” Jones said.

“We’re really pleased with the way it’s going, but it’s not converting into tries when the game’s always about scoring tries. But that will come.

“We’d like it to be this weekend but if not it might be next weekend. If it’s not next weekend it might be on the Australia tour. But it’s coming.

“It’s like that wave coming in. You can see it coming in and all of a sudden it crashes and all this power comes out of it. That’s what we’ll be like.”

England stand at a critical juncture – victory would place them on a title collision course with France, but defeat would revive memories of last year’s fifth-placed finish and usher in another failed campaign.

The stakes are high but Maro Itoje welcomes the pressure that accompanies an England side facing make-or-break stakes.

“I guess it comes with the territory. Every England team that I’m aware of whether it is football, whether it is rugby, whether it is cricket, whether it is GB Athletics, we’re made work for it. It’s a responsibility we have to bear,” Itoje said.

“With all these types of external pressure, my mindset is to walk towards it as opposed to thinking of myself as a victim.

“I want to embrace all challenges, positive or negative things that are being written or said, and will keep walking forward.”

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