James Haskell today warned Ireland they would not be able to “beat up” England again as they bid to make Six Nations history by winning back-to-back Grand Slams in Dublin.
Haskell was in the England team thumped 24-8 in Dublin in 2011 as they attempted to win the Slam, leaving them to receive the RBS Six Nations trophy as losers in the team hotel lobby after other results were known.
The bitter memory of that defeat has been used to prepare England for what will be an intensely hostile atmosphere tomorrow, with Ireland desperate to ruin the visitors’ Slam party yet again.
Haskell, who can move closer to selection for the Lions tour to New Zealand this summer with another big performance, said: “It will be a huge physical challenge against
Ireland. Everyone wants to beat up England and get the victory — and they won’t be any different.
“The 2011 Six Nations title was weird because we had been beaten and didn’t really turn up on the day. We tried and it just didn’t happen. On reflection, winning the Six Nations is a great achievement but you want to do it properly and don’t want to finish on that note again.
“There are guys in this squad who experienced that feeling and it still is bizarre. When I am 65 I will sit back and appreciate that I helped win the Six Nations title in 2011 but I don’t want to go through all of that again and it really is a motivating factor.
“Every team we play against pose a big physical challenge and want to impose themselves on us. However, the way we train, the physicality and the demands we put on ourselves means that we are prepared.
“You have to be ready to turn up and deliver on Saturday — and only the individuals know they can do that. From what I have seen from the guys, we have the desire to be successful. To stay involved with this squad, you have to turn up. If you are found wanting, the coaches will see the back of you.”
One of those coaches, forwards specialist Neal Hatley, said today: “We are expecting Ireland to throw the kitchen sink at us but there is real excitement [in the England camp] to be in this position.”
England’s players will share a £1million bonus if they make history with a second successive Grand Slam, having split £600,000 for winning every game in last year’s championship.
Under the new deal between the players and the RFU, the bonus will be shared on a pro-rata basis. Any member of the 23-player match-day squad who appears in each of England’s five games will receive a bonus of more than £43,000, up from £26,000 last season.
Meanwhile, Johnny Sexton is backing Connacht’s Kieran Marmion to fill the massive hole left by the injury to scrum-half Conor Murray.
“Conor is world-class and we’ve built up a really strong relationship over the last three years,” said Ireland fly-half Sexton. “He’d be a loss to any team. But Kieran has been outstanding for Connacht. I thought he did really well last week against Wales and he’ll be more confident for that effort. He’s looking forward to showing what he can do.”