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O’Driscoll Fully Focused On England Game

O’Driscoll Fully Focused On England Game

Top of the table after the opening two rounds and expectation levels have risen accordingly. But Brian O’Driscoll insists the Irish squad’s feet are planted firmly on the ground as they step up preparations for Saturday week’s crunch RBS 6 Nations clash with England.

Last Sunday’s five-try 38-9 dismissal of Italy in Rome propelled Ireland to the top of the RBS 6 Nations standings, ahead of defending champions Wales on points scoring difference.

After testing their respective singing talents in the post-match celebrations and enjoying a few days off, the Ireland players reassembled last night (Wednesday) for a mini training camp in Cork.

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Team captain Brian O’Driscoll, who took his Irish try-scoring record to 34 late on in the Italian game, admits that the squad are where they want to be at the moment – with two wins out of two chalked down – but that their Championship credentials are sure to be tested by England.

Looking forward to the Croke Park showdown, he said: “In terms of the Championship, we’re just looking to the English game now. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves.

“I’ve played ten seasons of Six Nations and never managed to win one, so it just goes to show you how difficult the competition.

“You just try to build momentum and and the next challenge is England.

“There’s plenty to improve on (from the Italy win). We were very slow in starting and I don’t think you can afford a start like that against England.

“But we just have to try and play our way into the game and take our opportunities. They tend not to be too plentiful against good defensive teams like England, so you have to be clinical when your opportunities do arise.”

O’Driscoll is envisaging ‘a much tighter affair’ than when England fell to a 43-13 defeat on their first visit to Croke Park in 2007.

“The English will remember what it was like two years ago and they’ll learn from those mistakes.

“They’ll be sore after losing to Wales last weekend too and won’t want to lose back-to-back games.

“You always have to be wary against England and particularly when they are wounded, they can be a dangerous side.

“I’m sure they’ve had a good, hard look at the Wales video and they’ll look at us (against Italy) and see where they feel they can exploit us.

“I envisage it will be the exact same as it is every year against England – a very tough, hard, physical game and it will probably go down to the wire.”

There is an obvious feel-good factor in the Irish camp at present and O’Driscoll points to it when asked what is different to last season when Ireland secured their worst ever RBS 6 Nations finish of fourth.

“New coach, new ideas, new gameplan. A lot of things have changed,” he explained.

“I think the boys are really enjoying playing for one another. It’s good to have that back and you can really see it out on the pitch.”

The Leinster centre has been one of Ireland’s best players over their first two games in the 2009 tournament, scoring two tries in the process, and he cannot hide his satisfaction with that.

“Obviously I’m reasonably happy with my form. I’m feeling fit and fairly injury free which is a big bonus and it’s always nice to get on the scoresheet.

“It’s a joy to play in this team at the moment and hopefully that will last a long time.”

Saturday week’s game will be O’Driscoll’s 54th as Ireland captain and his winning rate to date stands at 68% (36 victories).

The much-anticipated encounter will afford him the chance to lock tactical horns with his 2001 British & Irish Lions team-mate Martin Johnson.

England manager Johnson is someone he holds in high regard.

“There is a steeliness to him. He’s everything there is about hard, physical rugby. He’s going to bring that edge back to their game.

“It will take time to turn that team around and people are getting on his back already but they’ll be ready to come to Croke Park the second time around.”