George Ford has not forgotten the last time Ireland came to Twickenham during the Six Nations. Two years ago they inflicted what was at the time England’s first home defeat under Eddie Jones, doing so emphatically to clinch the grand slam and round off a thoroughly miserable campaign for Ford and co.
Whether Jones, or his captain Owen Farrell, addresses the squad about it this week, that stinging defeat is likely to serve as motivation for England on Sunday. They have their campaign back on track following the disappointing defeat by France with the scrappiest of victories in Scotland but there remains a sense England have not yet got going.
“Yeah, we remember,” Ford said. “We never like losing matches particularly at home. We haven’t spoken about that. Maybe in Test week we’ll dive into a few things to get us right emotionally. You don’t want to look too far in the past but if it’s something you can use to get yourself to a higher level then you use it. We’ll work that out in the week. See what the two or three critical things are that we need to do to make sure we’re ready for this game.”
Ireland, buoyed by wins over Scotland and Wales, arrive at Twickenham refreshed after a torrid World Cup campaign, with Andy Farrell at the helm. The father-son narrative is inescapable but Farrell Sr is well known to a lot of the England squad, having been defence coach under Stuart Lancaster. Jones tried to get him back in 2018, having let him go when taking over as the England coach because of initial concerns over the father-son dynamic. Farrell was tempted but replacing Joe Schmidt as the Ireland coach was too good an opportunity to turn down.
Ford knows Farrell better than most, having first met him when he was in year eight at school. His father Mike was coaching at Saracens when Farrell signed for the club – George and Owen forging a friendship and an understanding evident whenever they line up next to each other for England.
“Every coach coming here playing England would be motivated to come and win,” Ford said. “What I know is he’s like Owen. They’re very competitive guys and he will be doing the utmost, Andy and the rest of the Irish squad, to come and get a win. They’ve started well and they’ll want to get another win.
“Andy being primarily a defence coach they are going to be hard to break down from an attack point of view and they will be looking to bring some line speed and something a bit different against us. We understand Ireland are a very good team, very well coached. They have started the Six Nations very very well, so we have got huge respect for them and we understand the challenge that lies ahead.
“The stuff Ireland are notoriously good at is the contact stuff, the kicking game and in the air, and the contest at the breakdown is always going to be the biggest challenge against these guys. It is something they are very good at and why would you go away from it if you are very good at it?”
England stopped the rot in Scotland – their first victory since the World Cup final – but so far in this championship they have not come close to the level of performance as seen against New Zealand, or in last year’s Six Nations against Ireland in Dublin.
“We needed a win, the result was everything last week,” Ford said. “Now we’re glad to be back at Twickenham and we will be putting all our energy into preparing as well as we can because we will need to be somewhere near our best.”