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Ireland's toughest task yet as O'Mahony prepares for 'adaptive' England

The Munster captain says Joe Schmidt’s side are not happy with their performances in his championship so far.

IRELAND BACK ROW Peter O’Mahony has warned that Ireland face their toughest challenge yet in this year’s Six Nations when the “hugely adaptive” England arrive in Dublin.

Peter O'Mahony Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Stuart Lancaster’s side lead the championship after wins over Wales and Italy, the former being an impressive statement of their quality at the Millenium Stadium.

Ireland lost out to England at Twickenham last year, before going on to secure the Six Nations title, and O’Mahony feels Lancaster’s men have improved since that meeting.

“Their attacking play has come on a long way,” says O’Mahony. “Luther Burrell, guys like [Anthony] Watson, George Ford, they’re impressive across the board. Whoever plays at 15, Mike Brown or [Alex] Goode, it doesn’t really matter.

They have a hugely impressive impact bench as well. Guys like Tom Croft and [Nick] Easter to come on and make an impact with a huge amount of experience. They are quite a complete, all-round side.”

O’Mahony publicly predicts a narrow margin between the teams in the final scoreline this weekend, but Ireland come into this game with justified confidence in their own ability.

A nine-game winning streak is partly cause for that belief, although O’Mahony says the recent run of strong results doesn’t change anything within Joe Schmidt’s group.

It’s always a great thing to be on a winning Irish side,” says the Munster captain. “We’ve been lucky enough to get a few over the last 18 months but I don’t think this team is going to take it any differently.

“Obviously the goal is to win the game but I think our process during this week and for game day is as it has been, and that is all we are looking for.

“It’s a strange enough feeling. We are obviously happy to get the wins [in this year's Six Nations so far] but I don’t think we have been overly happy with the performances.

“We’ve had two very tough games and we’ve battled them out well but I don’t think we’ve been quite as happy with our execution and our attention to detail. On the flip side it gives us plenty to work on and plenty of things to look forward to and implement.”

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Rob Kearney and Peter O'Mahony O'Mahony takes on Rob Kearney at training in Galway last week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That “mixed feeling” keeps Schmidt’s men on their toes and it seems likely that the displays that led to wins over Italy and France simply won’t be enough to see off the English this time around.

O’Mahony says “there won’t be any change of game plan” from Ireland, and the same old truism of winning the game up front applies to this fixture.

They are a hugely physical side,” says O’Mahony of England, “that always starts with your pack. Guys like [James] Haskell have brought a huge physicality to what they do. [Billy] Vunipola, guys like [Dave] Attwood are really stepping up to the mark.

“They are physical players. They look to implement themselves in the game as often as they can, get themselves on the front foot. As a result, England are on the front foot. It stems from their pack.”

O’Mahony highlights captain Chris Robshaw as an example of the physical effort England will put in again on Sunday, and the visitors’ back row is as much of a threat as ever.

Jamie Heaslip’s absence seems likely to open the door for Jordi Murphy to start his second game of the championship at number eight, and O’Mahony has every confidence in the 23-year-old’s ability to deliver.

Jordi is a quality player,” says O’Mahony. “He’s well rounded, well able to carry hard and do the grunt work, but he’s got a good set of skills. He’s got a lovely pass, a good lineout option.

“He’s a quality all-rounded player and its great to have guys like him, Tommy O’Donnell, all the guys competing for the back row. I think it is a good place to be and we are pushing each other on.

“I think Jordi has [come on since last year], he’s developed hugely. With the experience and game time he is getting between Leinster and Ireland over the last couple of weeks, you can do nothing but develop.”

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Murray Kinsella

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