Tuesday 12 November 2019

Easter not sweeping Lansdowne challenge under carpet as England pile pressure on hosts

David Kelly

David Kelly

England captain Nick Easter was preparing for a game with unglamorous Orrell when his current manager Martin Johnson last came to Dublin seeking a Grand Slam eight years ago as a brooding leader.

It was a day when England pulled the rug from beneath the Irish in more ways than one. However, Easter doesn't expect another diplomatic incident to unfold.

"I think we'll be guided pretty well tomorrow," he smiles. "I remember watching that incident on television and I found it pretty amusing. But I think we'll be guided to the right side. But once we are told where to go, you stand your ground."

The English nation may expect, but the England team deflects. Like the long run-in to the final fence at Cheltenham, much can happen before the last barrier of this particular race can be hurdled.

"The way the Irish have played so far, they haven't delivered their best and I'm sure that will come tomorrow and our boys are looking forward to it," declares the Harlequins No 8.

"It'll be a good contest. I think this will be the hardest game of the season, away games are always tougher. We'd a tough opener against Wales, but on the back of their autumn, they probably weren't as confident as perhaps they are now, which makes this the toughest in my opinion, and most of the group think that.

"We're focusing on ourselves which we have done all tournament and we'll continue that.

"To win in Dublin, with the occasion and what's at stake, we're going to have to bring our best game. Nobody wins anything tangible not doing that.

"We realise that after being not so hot last week, it was a kick up the backside to make sure we produce the goods tomorrow."

And Easter has pinpointed former club colleague, Irish tight-head prop Mike Ross, as one of the key players in today's tussle.

"He has strengthened up their front-row, one that used to be perceived as a weakness and certainly isn't now. When he came over, we thought he was faking it as a pastry chef from Ireland really.

"He became an invaluable member of our team and I don't think we've replaced him really since then. He's very strong, Leinster have got him fitter, his work around the park is more mobile.

"He should have been playing for Ireland when at Harlequins. He's got his chance and taken it well."

Easter is confident his team can complete their drive for five. "I think the younger players can handle the pressure. We've worked hard to get four from four so hopefully we can make it five," he said.

Johnson, meanwhile, attempted to deflect the pressure away from his own team and on to their hosts.

"In some ways the pressure is on them," maintained Johnson.

"Before the competition, Ireland were under the radar and everyone thought they were in for a big competition, but it hasn't happened."

And Johnson also insists that his side have been fully briefed as to the pre-match protocol.

"We're walking out to the left apparently," he says. "I can't remember all that went before, it was eight years ago. I'm sure the players know too, we're walking out to the left of the main stand."

However, while Johnson knows exactly what his team will do before the game, he has dismissed talk of what form the trophy presentation may take if his side claim the championship and lose the Grand Slam.

"I'll worry about the post-match afterwards," said Johnson sternly. "I'm not even worried about that."

"We have an opportunity to win a Grand Slam and that's a great place to be, that's where we want to be going into a big game. These guys are ready to really have a crack."

Even if England are denied a Grand Slam, they are unlikely to be denied the championship, but the title will not be awarded until after the Wales versus France clash -- and as a result the presentation will take place in the English team hotel.

Irish Independent

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