As the countdown continues to England’s match against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the players have completed their final media day of the Six Nations down at their training camp in Surrey, Pennyhill Park. Nick Heath can bring us the latest.
A fairly relaxed looking Martin Johnson took his seat for the press conference as he confirmed Mike Tindall’s withdrawal through injury and the inclusion of Matt Banahan into the back line. Sky Sports’ Phil Edwards led the questioning but I managed to ask Johnno whether it had to be about coming out fast and hard or whether there could be a strategy of soaking up the early pressure.[podcast]/Podcasts/JohnnoIreClip.mp3[/podcast]
Fly-half Toby Flood has been marshalling England’s backline. I wanted to find out whether Banahan starting against Ireland has caused any changes in approach in training.[podcast]/Podcasts/TobyFloodIreClip.mp3[/podcast]
England could well have more caps on the bench than on the field with the likes of 2003 stalwarts Simon Shaw, Jonny Wilkinson & Steve Thompson starting there. I caught up with Thommo to find out whether the older heads really did pass on any gems of experience to the younger lads in the squad as they face their first grand slam opportunity of Johnno’s era.[podcast]/Podcasts/SteveThompsonIreClip.mp3[/podcast]
Ben Youngs is one of the younger group but the man he keeps on the bench is hardly an ageing scrum-half himself. Danny Care took a few minutes to sit with me and discuss the prospect of Dublin on Saturday.
So it’s all set to be an absolute belter of a clash as the Guinness flows and Dublin welcomes a wave of white shirted supporters to its shores. England will need a massively improved performance than their showing against Scotland against an Ireland side that have nothing to lose and so much pride to gain. I asked seasoned journo Mick Cleary for a score prediction today. He said, “We’re gonna have to play bloody well to win, that’s for sure.” He’s not wrong.