ROB KEARNEY has warned Ireland's forwards they must "muscle up" if they want to claim a Triple Crown at Twickenham today.
Joe Schmidt's side have a chance of securing their first piece of silverware since the 2009 Grand Slam if they can overcome England on their own patch, and full-back Kearney reckons edging the battle up front will be the winning of the game.
The Louth man admitted that the humiliation Ireland suffered at this venue two years ago, when the Irish scrum collapsed after Mike Ross' injury, is still "very strong in our memories" and acknowledged that this group of players had underachieved since their famous win in Cardiff five years ago, saying: "We haven't probably fulfilled our potential over the last few years."
And he charged his forward pack with the responsibility of laying the foundations for what would be a famous victory.
"You have to muscle up up front," he said. "The England power game is something that has paid huge dividends for them, not only this year but throughout the years.
"If you don't match them physically up front then you're going to come off second best. There is a big onus on our forwards to make sure that happens – and the end result... a lot of that will be determined on how we measure up up front.
"Then, of course, the last time we were in Twickenham... the debacle with the scrum after 40 minutes and how we were bullied off the field is still very strong in our memories.
"We recognise that there is an onus on us against the English teams. There is a lot at stake."
Kearney's Leinster colleague Brian O'Driscoll will today equal Australian George Gregan's Test caps record with 139, and he will also seek to pass a record set by Mike Gibson, who beat England eight times in an international career that ended the year O'Driscoll was born.
However, England have other ideas, despite fielding a vastly inexperienced side, with forwards coach Graham Rowntree declaring: "We won't worry about their reputation. We want our guys to go out there and be fearless."
Ireland have 724 caps in their squad, compared to just 302 for the opposition, as well as two of the last three Lions captains, Paul O'Connell (2009) and O'Driscoll ('05). The Dubliner will retire at the end of this season and has already stated he will not be content with merely a fourth Triple Crown – he is gunning for a second Grand Slam title.
"I imagine to do that would mean a lot to him," said Rowntree, who played with O'Driscoll on his abortive 2005 Lions tour, and was one of the coaches last summer.
"Beating us will mean everything to him. What a player. He's an icon. I really enjoyed working with him. As a man he's exceptional. To hear the way our guys speak about him is very impressive, he commands a lot of respect and will receive a lot of attention."
Kearney said the fact that this is O'Driscoll's last season was not a factor in the dressing-room, while he dismissed the idea that a Triple Crown would be seen as a stepping stone by the players.
"There's a trophy on the line and it's very hard to win a Triple Crown these days, the standard of teams is so good," he said.
"It's been a while since this team has won some silverware, we haven't probably fulfilled our potential over the last few years.
"We've put a couple of good games together now and if we were to win it would be a real step in the right direction for this team."