The France game was a relief and a pleasure to watch, and to win at the death having been behind for much of the game would have been particularly sweet, but England must back it up.
It has been a strange campaign and I have some empathy with the tight bubble conditions that they have lived in.
There are worse places to be holed up for two months than the Lensbury Hotel, but it must have felt like being on tour without the good bits, such as seeing different places.
I get the impression it has brought the group closer together as they have circled the wagons and spent so much time in close proximity. Now, they have to use that bond to finish on a high. The order has to be for more of the same, so Eddie Jones making just one forced change — with Elliot Daly back at outside centre, where he made his name for Wasps — makes sense.
Daly looked sharp off the bench last week, as if he was lifted by England’s better performance. That he and Max Malins are now both in the same back line is a tick for the new full-back, too.
England have won their past four games against Ireland, a run which began with a brilliant performance on their last visit to Dublin, in 2019.
That run has been built on physically overpowering Ireland, asserting themselves up front and dominating the gain line.
Win that physical battle again, and England will be able to play with the same attacking spirit they showed against France.
In that game, they were possibly liberated by France’s early try. This time, I’d like to see England throw the gauntlet down. It takes two to tango, but England can take the lead.
They struck a lovely balance in attack and were controlled, calculated and relentless, not reckless or gung-ho.
They showed that they can recover from an early setback and how fit they are to be superb in the final quarter.
Their discipline was much better against France — they didn’t concede a penalty in the first quarter — and it is clear they are working hard on not gambling so much and making better decisions about when to commit. Mistakes crept in later, so there is still work to do. That is where I think the game will be won and lost on QBE’s Risk and Reward Index.
QBE’s data shows that England are conceding an average of more than 14 penalties a game, the most in the tournament. They have also been awarded the fewest penalties.
Keeping their discipline is doubly important against Ireland, who beat Scotland last weekend thanks to a kick at goal. Their lineout is also outstanding, so they are very well set up to punish persistent penalty conceders.
England have a great opportunity to finish the campaign the way they had hoped to start it.
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