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'If you can’t get motivated for England, then get out of the changing room'

Ireland vice captain Jamie Heaslip says there will be no lack of desire from his side on Saturday.

TESTS BETWEEN ENGLAND and Ireland tend to be brutal affairs and Saturday in Twickenham is unlikely to be any different.

Such is the way in the Six Nations now, with the injuries seemingly stacking up by the minute during and after each battle for Joe Schmidt’s side. In a championship where teams don’t shirk contact – quite the opposite at times – attrition is the name of the game.

Jamie Heaslip Jamie Heaslip is confident Ireland will be fired up. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The English are arguably more powerful than anyone else in the Northern Hemisphere and Eddie Jones is certainly building everything he does with them from that foundational belief.

It means that after two Six Nations games against Wales and France that took tolls on their bodies and injury list, Ireland will need to be supremely motivated to meet the physical challenge.

Despite the disappointment of being out of the title race in a realistic sense, vice captain Jamie Heaslip sees no problem in that department.

“It’s England. It’s Twickenham,” says the Leinster number eight.

“If you can’t get motivated for a game like that, then get out of the changing room, to be honest.

“I’ve always said it; If you are an Irishman and you’re playing tiddlywinks against an Englishman, or chess or scrabble, you want to beat him, you know what I mean?

“It is very easy to be motivated. In terms of the losses, or one loss and one draw, I’ve been in that situation before. There is a core, not many, who have been in this situation before.

“We know which way it can go, we’ve got to be prepared. We’re pretty motivated, pretty driven for this opportunity.”

Strong words, and certainly those of a man who will look to lead for Ireland with his actions too. Heaslip points out that Ireland haven’t won in Twickenham since 2010 – recalling tries for Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls that day – as a means of stressing that Schmidt’s men have their work cut out for them on Saturday.

He feels that England possess good athletes, capable ball players, controlling game managers and, most impressively so far in this Six Nations, an excellent defensive system under former Saracens assistant coach Paul Gustard.

The Ireland squad huddle Ireland huddle up at Carton House yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The linespeed Gustard demands from his players has been well flagged, but Heaslip underlines that England are a hugely disruptive force in the ruck too, as they consistently look to kill the speed of recycle in order to allow their line to reset.

Heaslip also indicates that Ireland’s ball carriers can look for little subtleties such as short tip-on passes in order to ensure that they are not consistently hammering into big English shoulders.

“You can’t be reactive, I suppose is the best way to describe it,” says Heaslip. “You’ve got to be proactive. If there’s an opportunity to tip on and there’s a guy in more space than you, yes, but regardless sometimes you’ve just got to carry into a wall.

“They’ve got guys who are very good at trying to get onto the ball, poach the ball or back-end the ball, back-end the tackle or try to muddy up that ruck. So your rucking has got to be very, very accurate and by that you’ve got to beat them into the space, so that’s what I mean by being proactive.

“You can’t wait for the guy to carry into the ruck, because of people like the Vunipolas, [James] Haskell, their second rows are very good at getting in there and disrupting it, these kind of guys.

“We all know you want to play with quick ball, but they’re that kind of team that’ll slow that ball down if you’re not proactive and taking that space, winning that space and creating that gainline, deepening the ruck.

“Obviously the back foot of the ruck is the gainline, so if you deepen the ruck and if it’s quick with a very, very good defensive system that they have, they don’t have time to set into it.”

For all the debate around Ireland’s attacking strategy, herein lies one of the issues Schmidt’s men suffered at Stade de France - les Bleus were a little savvier in winning the space beyond the tackle. A ruthless rucking display is required in Twickenham.

Jamie Heaslip Heaslip ponders the battle ahead. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Another area in which Ireland can be smarter and more proactive is the scrum. This set-piece has arguably been the root of both drawing with Wales and losing to France.

Though Heaslip remains confident in what Ireland can do here – Mike Ross seems certain to come into the starting team, with Cian Healy providing additional loosehead power from the bench –  the number eight feels his team may sometimes need to take the decisions out of the referee’s hands and into their own.

Against Joe Marler, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole and Paul Hill, Ireland believe they can bounce back at scrum time.

“I’m very confident in our scrum,” says Heaslip. “We’ve probably got to be a bit more streetwise around it, but I’ve full confidence in it. It’s a massive part of the game.

“It’s probably the best platform to attack off, and that’s why you’ve got to put so much time into it and so much effort into it, and how you defend around it, especially five-metre scrums and stuff like that.

“You don’t want to give too many penalties away because refs have no problem giving a penalty try if you’re doing it. But we’ve got to enforce our own kind of dominance on it as well and we’ve been working towards that.”

In a way, that sounds like the overriding theme of Ireland’s intent for Twickenham. They understand the physical test awaiting them in London, but Schmidt’s men are keen to ensure they take it on their own terms.

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Murray Kinsella

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