Ireland must “stay calm” against England at Twickenham if they are to maintain their 2022 Six Nations title hopes, says forwards coach Paul O’Connell.
The Irish and the English have two wins apiece but trail France, who are the only side still in the hunt for the Grand Slam, with two matches remaining.
Ireland saw their dreams of a Grand Slam disappear in a 30-24 defeat in Paris and O’Connell, the Ireland centurion and veteran of three British & Irish Lions tours, says they need to be more calculating in their approach when they play away from home.
England, who have followed up their opening loss to Scotland with two successive wins, will present a stiff challenge next week.
“We need to improve everywhere as we are going away from home to Twickenham and a full crowd,” said O’Connell.
“England are just bubbling and just on the verge of a big performance, so every part needs to be done better. We missed opportunities in Paris due to small inaccuracies. When you are away from home the key is being calm.
“There is never any lack of intent or passion or emotion when they play for Ireland. It is just being calm is the big thing.”
O’Connell, who has been credited with sharpening up the Ireland scrum since head coach Andy Farrell brought him in, says a case in point was conceding 10 early points to France in Paris.
“We did some things early on which gave them access to the ball and, with that, control,” said the former Ireland captain. “10-0 down and away from home it is a long way to come back particularly against France and would be the same against England at Twickenham.
“If you as the away team can get a lead early on it puts you in a great place.”
The 108-capped former lock says it is exciting to be still in with a chance of the Six Nations title. It would be Ireland’s first since Farrell took over after the 2019 World Cup.
“We have a great chance,” said the 42-year-old. “We are still in it and the most important thing is we are playing good rugby at times. There is really good ownership among the group.
“Andy has kept them fresh and we are in a good place heading into the last two weeks. It is important to keep them fresh for these games but Andy is good at managing that, so hopefully they are fresh and full of enthusiasm for the final two games.”
Ireland round off their campaign when they welcome Scotland to Dublin on 19 March.
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