Ireland v England: Coach John Mitchell wary of 'tenacious' Ireland in Six Nations

Maro Itoje
England beat Ireland 18-7 in last year's Autumn Nations Cup - the teams' most recent meeting
Guinness Six Nations 2021 - Ireland v England
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday 20 March Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Ulster; live text commentary and post-match video highlights on the BBC Sport website and app.

England coach John Mitchell says to expect a very different game from last weekend's win over France when his side face a "tenacious" Ireland in Dublin.

England's 23-20 win at Twickenham on Saturday was one of the most exciting, open Tests of recent years.

"This game will be somewhat different," said Mitchell.

"This game is going to be highly unstructured, a lot of kicking in the air and very physical. It is going to be a war at the breakdown."

England have won their last four matches against Ireland, by an average of more than 19 points.

But Mitchell rejected any suggestion England had worked out Andy Farrell's team, particularly with the hosts motivated by number eight CJ Stander making his final appearance in a green shirt before retirement.

"You never have Ireland's number, they are a tenacious side, a tenacious country, they fight bloody hard for each other, they will rip in, there is no doubt, but we are ready for all that," Mitchell added.

Although their Six Nations title defence has been scuppered by earlier defeats by Scotland and Wales, England can claim a consolatory second place in the table with a victory and other results going their way.

A Six Nations table showing: Wales P 4 W 4 D 0 L 0 PD 63 B 3 Pts 19; Ireland P 4 W 2 D 0 L 2 PD 34 B 3 Pts 11; France P 3 W 2 D 0 L 1 PD 39 B 2 Pts 10; England P 4 W 2 D 0 L 2 PD 5 B 2 Pts 10; Scotland P 3 W 1 D 0 L 2 PD 1 B 2 Pts 6; Italy P 4 W 0 D 0 L 4 PD -142 B 0 Pts 0
France and Scotland's round three fixture was postponed, leaving them with an extra game still to play

Ireland, who took a narrow victory away to Scotland last time out, currently occupy second with two wins from their four games.

Leaders Wales can clinch the title and a Grand Slam with victory over France. However France, who still have an extra game to play after their meeting with Scotland was postponed because of a Covid outbreak, could snatch the title with two wins.

Malins braced for aerial battle

Max Malins
Malins had to go low in defence against France, but expects to be looking to the skies more in a kick-based game against Ireland

Full-back Max Malins made his first England start in the win over France, and is expecting Ireland to pose a very different challenge.

Ireland's kicking game has proved a telling weapon in the fixture's history with Robbie Henshaw memorably claiming a Connor Murray box-kick over the head of Alex Goode in Ireland's 19-9 win in Dublin in 2015.

Henshaw and Murray are both in Ireland's starting XV on Saturday with 6ft 3in wing Jacob Stockdale recalled.

"This week is probably going to be more of a kicking battle, a battle in the air. Ireland like to get territory through their kicking game and getting the ball back through contestables, we are expecting a big battle on that front," said Malins.

"They have obviously got some great wings who get after the ball, get in the air and try to make it a fight in the air.

"There is definitely a threat there and it is up to us to defuse it."

Malins also revealed he has been briefed about stepping in at fly-half for England. The 24-year-old has played at 10 throughout his career, most recently for Bristol at the end of last season.

"There have been discussions," he told BBC Sport.

"If George [Ford] and Owen [Farrell] both go down then I would happily slot in there. I know my roles. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

"I want to keep it as a position of mine, I enjoy playing 10 every now and then, I think it is good to have both 10 and 15 as an option."

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