Donnacha Ryan: 'We must be very motivated to contend with England'
LOCK Donnacha Ryan has urged Ireland to continue building momentum in the RBS 6 Nations when the team renew their long rivalry with England at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow.
Just two weekends in and the showdown in Dublin is being billed as an early title decider between teams who each have a score to settle.
"England have been very impressive so we'll have to be very motivated to be able to contend with them," Ryan said.
"If we produce a good performance then we know we'll be in a really good place in championship terms.
"Last year was a dream come true for me to play against England, but it was a nightmare result. There's a lot of history between us. I wish we could play hurling against England.
"The Croke Park game in 2007 was a phenomenal match. When I was growing up I didn't watch much rugby, I was always mucking around outside, but it's special to be involved in these games."
On recent form the Lions' touring party to Australia this summer will be dominated by Irish and English players and tomorrow's clash throws up some fascinating duels that will impact on selection.
Among them is Ryan's second-row battle with Joe Launchbury and the pair could conceivably be partnered together in the Test series against the Wallabies.
Ryan is athletic, rugged and tough and has flourished in the injury-enforced absence of Paul O'Connell, while Launchbury made his name with a string of all-action performances during the autumn.
"Joe Launchbury is very physical and abrasive. He's keeping Courtney Lawes out of the team so is obviously doing some good things," Ryan said.
"They have some big, powerful men in their front five - Geoff Parling has been doing well as well. They seem to have a good relationship."
While the collision between opensides Chris Robshaw and Sean O'Brien will be fascinating, it is the fly-half battle that will secure most attention.
Jonathan Sexton is the favourite to take the Lions Test number 10 jersey, but Owen Farrell of England is snapping at his heels and will close the gap further with a strong performance at the Aviva Stadium.
"Owen's a very good player who is oozing in confidence. When we played against him with Munster against Saracens. He's got that x-factor," Ryan said.
"He can also mix it in the physical stakes, which is what you want from a 10. He's a big talisman for England.
"If England's pack generate a lot of go-forward ball, then I'm sure he'll cause us a lot of problems."