Winger Tommy Bowe insists the Ireland squad are confident of ending their four-match run of defeats against England next weekend.
England have become a bit of a bogey team for Ireland in recent years, with the men in green not beating their rivals since a 24-8 victory in the 2011 RBS 6 Nations at the Aviva Stadium.
Tommy Bowe, who has not faced the English since 2012 due to injury, said: “I didn’t even know that was the stat (about the four successive losses), that’s not great reading. But I think that we’ll be confident about them coming to the Aviva (Stadium).
“England are playing some outstanding rugby at the minute, they defend well and are difficult to break down. They’ve got some really classy players in the back-line. Obviously they’re very physical up front and they’ll be confident about coming here.
“Certainly with the interest I’ve had and people wanting tickets for the matches, the interest of everybody talking about the England match, the Irish public and Irish team will certainly be up for it. We’ll hopefully try and right that four-game losing sequence against them.”
Twelve months ago Joe Schmidt’s men lost 13-10 at Twickenham, but since then they have captured the RBS 6 Nations title and are now on a nine-match winning streak which includes victories over South Africa and Australia.
The confidence gained from that superb run was evident in how Ireland staved off a late French flurry last Saturday. Bowe said it brought back memories of trying to hold on against the All Blacks in November 2013.
“It does give huge confidence, probably on the pitch whenever we do get into a sticky situation. Like at the weekend when France pulled it back and it could have been just that one score, they had us on the ropes, but we go back a lot to think about that All Blacks game.
“It still plays on my mind, could you have worked that bit harder in the last few minutes of the game to do whatever you could to stop them scoring that try? That rings out in your head going into that sort of situation.
“Having the ability to know in the last five, 10, 15 minutes that we can pull something out of the bag if we need to to win is a huge confidence booster for a team. I think that’s shown with us being able to get the nine wins in a row.”
That ninth victory came the same week that Bowe’s grandmother, Breda Bowe, sadly passed away in her nineties. The Monaghan man was pleased to get the result against France as a fitting tribute to her.
“She passed away at the start of last week. And it was quite special. She was there from my first cap in Ulster. She was still quite well known in Ulster for turning up with her blankets over her and her hot toddy…people still talk about her.
“She was a big supporter of mine and I think it was nice to get that victory for my family, for my dad. Playing in the Irish jersey is not just about you on the pitch. It’s about the people and that Irish pride…yeah it was a nice one to win.”
There is also a sense of pride in Ireland’s newly-formed centre partnership. Bowe saw his Ulster colleague Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw’s relationship continue to blossom against France in only their third game together.
Noting Henshaw’s high work-rate in training and defensive display against France along with Payne’s ability to create space outside him, Bowe feels the duo will continue to improve as their partnership develops at Test level.
“Robbie’s maturity on the training field is something that has struck me…he works hard, he trains hard, he does his extras both on and off the pitch. He’s a classy operator, a super player for Ireland to have. At such a young age to look so composed and physical as well. I think he’s going to be a real stalwart in the Irish jersey for the next couple of years,” he said.
“There’s a huge amount more to come from Jared, the more he grows comfortable in that position in Ireland and with Robbie and the number 13 position as well.
“Jared is just one of these players who seems to have an awful lot of time on the ball as well and the more comfortable he gets, he is certainly good to play outside of at Ulster and puts you in space. He has great ideas and he’s going to be a real class act.”
Bowe was speaking as Cadbury Boost was unveiled as the official chocolate bar of the IRFU at the launch of a new partnership between Cadbury and the IRFU. Click here for more details.