Ireland rock up to Twickenham this afternoon on a mission.

It's not so much that they must avoid defeat – these things happen, England are a handy outfit, Six Nations winners and World Cup finalists – it's that Ireland, who have lost their last three away games, must, at all costs, avoid the sort of performance that they produced in their last three meetings.

A quick recap:

Six Nations 2019: 20-32 - "Broken...bullied," admitted then-coach Joe Schmidt.

World Cup warm-up 2019:  57-15 - "Disheveled," said the New Zealander. 

Six Nations 2020: 24-12 - "We hardly fired a shot...it shouldn’t happen," Andy Farrell reckoned.

There are, of course, various different reasons (or excuses) for each of those performances but none will really suffice this evening should a hefty England side, "the strongest team possible", according to Eddie Jones, not be pushed out of their comfort zone.

The question of taking England, who have won 26 of their last 29 home games, on at their own physical and narky game was common in this week’s press conferences.

Noticeable last February, more so than before, was how the England players relished winning the collisions around the park, whooping and yelping into the faces of the Irish after a knock on, or scrum award or penalty concession, all clearly audible via the ref-link.

"If you keep sending players into brick walls all the time, then [England will] get an opportunity to be able to do that," said Farrell of their chirpy disposition.

"If the set-piece doesn't go how you’d want it to go, you give them opportunities to do that." 

"We weren’t able to be physical because they harassed us in many areas and we weren’t clinical enough in our exiting, in our set-piece and when things go wrong like that the other team tends to get an opportunity to be physical.

"If things start going our way and we get on the front foot I’ve no doubt we’ll be physical back at them." 

England’s forwards weigh in at an average of 115.3kgs (versus Ireland’s 111.9kgs) so time will tell how much wisdom there is in taking on one of the best in the business at their own game but there are other areas too in which improvement must be found.

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England have mastered the kicking game and one of Ireland’s biggest failings last time out was not addressing that area.

Given the manner of how England worked two of their four tries in the 2019 Six Nations match, to ship another two (from three scored) in the same manner was particularly worrying.

Ireland are missing Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong and Jordan Larmour and their starting line-up has 292 caps fewer than England’s for the teams’ second Autumn Nations Cup outing.

While the recall for Ross Byrne, who earns just his second start, has dominated the narrative, given his performance in the warm-up defeat was deemed to have cost him a place at the World Cup, Jamison Gibson-Park's inclusion over the experienced Conor Murray is a brave call by Farrell.

But the New Zealander’s performance against Wales last week was enough to convince the boss that he was the man to throw into the cauldron here.

"To be able to find out about the group we've got to give people a chance on the big stage and this is a big game," said Farrell. 

Jacob Stockdale has recovered from his calf strain but Farrell continues with Hugo Keenan at full-back and given the Ulster man’s previous against England, it’s another justified call.

The retention of Peter O’Mahony in the pack was a nod to the Munster captain’s talents for disruption and will also provide comfort for novice hooker Ronan Kelleher as he looks down the lineout. 

Quinn Roux, one of five Ireland starters who are eligible via the residency clause, played his best game in a green shirt in the 32-9 win over Wales and his partnership with new captain James Ryan will have a big say in the result.


'We think of all our players as being Irish


England are missing Manu Tuilagi, who has been a particular thorn in the side, but still possess an impressive array of heavy-hitters, the two Vunipola brothers are in situ and Tom Curry and Sam Underhill are back.

While Ireland produced a solid showing against the Welsh last weekend, England went through the motions in poor conditions against Georgia, running up a 40-0 win.

"Ireland were very happy with their dominant performance against Wales and we know they are a very well-coached team," Jones, whose team haven’t been beaten since the opening game of the Six Nations against France six matches ago, said. 

"As their coaching staff said, they were dominant, so the challenge is can they bring a dominant Irish performance to Twickenham? 

"I know Andy Farrell very well, they will be well prepared and they'll come to Twickenham with a point to prove, which always makes them dangerous." 

Ross Byrne and his team-mates suffered a harrowing defeat in August 2019

Argentina’s historic win over New Zealand last Saturday gave lie to the post-match excuse of losing teams when they cite a lack of match practice as a reason for defeat.

Mario Ledesma’s side showed what exactly can be achieved when an underdog goes out with the right attitude, and is able to back it up with intensity and desire. 

England, for all their might, are not so far ahead of Ireland that they could not be dragged into a fight by a team with the right mentality.

Off the back of a trio of one-sided games, there can be no excuse for Farrell’s not having his men primed to land a few blows.

It might not be enough to claim a 50th victory over the hosts and top spot in Group A, but it would be the first sign of resistance and that's their mission. 

Verdict: England by 10

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, James Ryan (capt), CJ Stander, Peter O'Mahony, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Finlay Bealham, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Will Connors, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale. 

England: Elliot Daly; Jonathan Joseph, Ollie Lawrence, Henry Slade, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (capt), Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Tom Dunn, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, George Ford, Max Malins.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)

Follow England v Ireland this Saturday via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ One from 2pm, or listen to live updates on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport.