Sunday 24 February 2019

'Ireland will try and bore the s**t out of us' - England coach Mitchell stokes flames ahead of Six Nations opener

John Mitchell, the England defence coach, faces the media
John Mitchell, the England defence coach, faces the media
John Mitchell, the England defence coach, faces the media

Duncan Bech

England have stirred up tensions ahead of Saturday's seismic Guinness Six Nations opener in Dublin by claiming Ireland will "try to bore the s**t out of us".

Eddie Jones' men head to the Aviva Stadium knowing victory would land an early blow in their quest to reclaim the crown they surrendered to the Grand Slam champions last year.

The stakes are high and Jones' number two John Mitchell has ignited hostilities by describing Ireland's highly-structured gameplan as dull.

"Ireland are arguably the best in the world and, for me, are a side who - through their process being a well-coached side - are resilient and they will try to bore the s**t out of us basically," Mitchell told BBC Sport.

"Ultimately, it will come down to a small piece of possession when you're not focused that can hurt you, in a contest like this."

It is the second attack on Ireland in 10 days after Jones highlighted what he views as the influence their fly-half Johnny Sexton has on officials, claiming he has a "bat phone to the referee".

"He's the only one allowed to pick up the red phone to talk to the referee," Jones added.

Ireland are positioned second in the global rankings behind leaders New Zealand, whom they defeated in Dublin last autumn, and Mitchell views the potentially decisive title clash as a moment to seize.

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"It's our aim to win the Six Nations but first up is Ireland and arguably they are the best team in the world," England defence coach Mitchell said.

"If you're going to play the best team in the world, you might as well get into them straight away.

"They've deserved all the honours that came their way in 2018. Having them first up makes the challenge even more exciting.

"It's a challenge that you don't over-think, instead you walk towards it and embrace it.

"It's always been tough playing there, but it's even harder now because they're a well coached side. They're very consistent and have a process they're very confident in."

England on Thursday name their team for the first of nine Tests before the World Cup begins in September with the fitness of Brad Shields and Joe Cokanasiga the outstanding concerns.

Owen Farrell has made good progress after undergoing thumb surgery and is on course to lead the team in Dublin, but Shields and Cokanasiga have until Wednesday to prove they have fully recovered from their respective side and knee injuries.

"Our main session is on Wednesday. We'll be in a better position by then to know exactly where we'll be at with individuals," Mitchell said.

"Brad is progressing really nicely. He was in contact conditioning and is moving nicely.

"Owen has been integrating further and further as the sessions have gone on. He's very vocal and very energetic. It looks like he's enjoyed a little bit of a break.

"He's been jumping into contact progressively and seems pretty good and isn't shirking any of his duties."

Mitchell revealed that flanker Jack Clifford, who was not expected to be included in the matchday 23, has returned home after sustaining a head injury in training.

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