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Morgan Treacy/INPHO Rob Herring at today's training session.
# Ireland
'Going away to England, we challenge ourselves to not be afraid'
Rob Herring believes Ireland have improved significantly since last visited Twickenham in November 2020.

ROB HERRING MADE an interesting point earlier today. Reflecting on how much Ireland have improved since their last visit to Twickenham, 16 months ago, the Ulster hooker didn’t shy away from pointing out the obvious.

For all the progress – the stand-out wins over England and New Zealand, the comprehensive ones over Argentina, Japan and Wales – there has been one constant: all were achieved at home.

One box has yet to be ticked. Yes, Ireland won away last season against Scotland and Italy, but that was Scotland and Italy, and that was behind closed doors. Their next four away games are against England – on Saturday week – then New Zealand, on the three-test summer tour.

“It’s massively important for us to get that away win,” said Herring. “Against France we played really well but just didn’t come on the right side of that game. Going away to England, we challenge ourselves to not be afraid to play the game we want.

“To do it in a cauldron like Twickenham, it’s a different experience. For the growth of the group it’ll be really good for us to go and put in a good performance.”

All of which is easier said than done. England, for all their troubles, remain strong, Twickenham, with its towering stands, an intimidating venue.

“We’ve addressed it already this week, in terms of how it will be very loud and England will try to get the crowd on their side early on,” said Herring.

“It’s a great place to play, one of those stadiums where every player wants to be involved in. We haven’t played that well over there the last couple of times (losing the World Cup warm-up game in 2019, in the 2020 Six Nations and then the Autumn Nations Cup), so hopefully it will be a good test for us.”

the-ireland-team-dejected-after-the-game Craig Mercer / INPHO Ireland team dejected after defeat to England in 2020. Craig Mercer / INPHO / INPHO

There is no doubt it will – but then again, it’ll also be a good test for England as Ireland are considered a better team than Eddie Jones’ side on current form. Certainly they are a much better version of the Ireland team that stuttered and stumbled in the spring and autumn of 2020. “Both teams have changed quite a bit; our play has come on a lot since then. The last time we played there was at the start of Faz’s tenure as coach, and I’m sure you’ve all seen how we’ve evolved in our attack since then.

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“It’s a new look team for England as well, so it will be a completely different experience both ways. We still have to reflect on those two games (in 2020) and what went wrong, and maybe why we didn’t manage to impose ourselves on them then.”

One other change for Herring is a personal one. In 2020, he was first-choice hooker. Now he is third in the pecking order, Ronan Kelleher and Dan Sheehan overtaking him.

“We have a group here where we’re all trying to push each other on,” he said. “We all have different strengths and weaknesses. I want to be fighting for that No2 jersey and want to be starting but on any given week I’ll do whatever role the team needs me to do. 

“They’re good blokes (Sheehan and Kelleher), and we all work hard together to try and improve the group. I think they’ve both been playing well for their club as well. Like I said, it’s a challenging position and we’re all challenging each other, and we’ll all be better for it.”

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