Gert Smal oversees Ireland training on Wednesday. ©INPHO/James Crombie
6 Nations

Smal has confidence in Irish front row after Paddy's Day mash-up

The Ireland forwards coach is aware that England will be targeting a repeat of their scrum dominance last year.

THE DISCUSSION AT Carton House this week has veered toward the make-up of Ireland and England’s centre combinations on Sunday.

Gordon D’Arcy looks to be in the clear to start for Ireland alongside Brian O’Driscoll for the 49th time.

Word from sources close to the England camp suggest Stuart Lancaster will opt for a Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt combination, with Billy Twelvetrees on the bench.

Backline hijinks aside, the deciding battle at the weekend will undoubtedly be contested between both sets of front rows.

Ireland looked solid against a decent Welsh front three on Saturday but, as lock Donncha O’Callaghan admitted on Wednesday, the scars from the 30-9 loss against England last year have yet to heal properly.

That day, St Patrick’s Day no less, the Irish scrum was sent reeling and crashing after Mike Ross left the field on the half-hour.

The Irish scrum in trouble as Tom Court pops up amid a squeeze in 2012. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Targeting a repeat

“We had a rough day last year in Twickenham,” Conor Murray, who missed the match through injury, told

“In fairness to the players that were on the pitch at the time, they stood up and kept fighting until the end.

“Recently, and even at the weekend, our scrum is in a pretty good place. We managed a couple of decent first-phase moves off our scrum and we are looking to build on that. It will be a challenge again but one we are confident about.”

Ireland’s forwards coach Gert Smal praised his players’ dogged defence in the closing stages against the Welsh but acknowledges that England are an entirely different beast. He said:

It is quite obvious that they are going to target that area. The rumours are out there that they will attack us there.”

Smal added, “Last year is last year. We’ve worked on a few things up close, did well against Argentina and Wales last week. We know exactly what we’re in for and it will be really tough but I’m confident in the players.”

England are coming over to beat us up – Conor Murray

Ireland v England: Stuart Lancaster keeps his midfield options open

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