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Alex Spink: England aim to cash in on the sound of silence

26 Feb | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alex Spink: England aim to cash in on the sound of silence

Mutual respect the order of the day as Six Nations table-toppers prepare to do battle in Grand Slam eliminator

‘THE arrogant English are coming to town’ is a headline the Irish papers would love to run ahead of Sunday’s Grand Slam eliminator.

It has served them well in the past, as it has countless other opponents of England’s rugby team – playing on historical prejudices, fuelling a ‘them and us’ mentality which has proved a powerful driving force.

Only it doesn’t apply any more. This England squad is as humble as they come. As forwards coach Graham Rowntree put it on Tuesday: “We’re certainly not arrogant, by any means – or complacent.”

This is not what the people of Ireland want to hear. They want England to march on Dublin with a swagger, boasting of their four successive wins in the fixture, dismissing their 2011 Grand Slam thumping by the men in green as an irrelevant relic of a bygone era.

It is true that England have had the upper hand of late. Since Stuart Lancaster took charge Ireland have turned up three times, lost the lot and scored only one try.

Yet who was it that won the title last year and come into this game on the back of nine wins? Ireland. And who is that are favourites to win at the Aviva? Ireland.

In truth there is little to choose between the sides, the only two remaining in the tournament with 100 per cent records. It’s going to come down to small margins.

This might be one missed touch or a spilled ball over the try line. Or even a single word out of place in the mind game that is played before the sides even take to the field.

As things stand no feathers have been ruffled. Nothing but mutual respect has passed across ‘no man’s land’ in the build-up.

This tends to be the way of modern sport and it is the duller for it. It is exactly because so few sound bites register these days that teams are so wary of saying anything.

England and Ireland are quite happy with the sound of silence, however, as they make strides up the world rankings – currently third and fourth respectively.

The Irish have put Italy and France to the sword in the first two rounds without hitting top gear. They are without their Lions No8 Jamie Heaslip this time. England, hugely impressive in beating Wales, less so in seeing off Italy, will pack more of a punch up front.

But Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton is the best player involved. His halfback partnership with Conor Murray will likely decide the contest. If they break free the Irish win, if England shut them down the visitors are in business.

Stuart Lancaster’s team will believe that coming from behind to beat Wales in the Millennium Stadium cauldron equips them to handle whatever is thrown at them this weekend.

Only they won’t say that. They’ll let their rugby do the talking come gameday. It’s what makes them dangerous. And the Irish know it.