The Aviva Stadium showdown will be the final outing for Eddie Jones’s senior squad until the autumn due to the recruitment of their established stars for the Lions’ summer series against South Africa.
England conceded their title with a round three defeat by Wales and if they fall in Dublin on Saturday, they will have equalled their worst Six Nations performance of three defeats.
But they enter the final instalment of the Championship lifted by a restorative 23-20 victory over France and knowing that, having compiled four consecutive victories over Ireland, they have their rivals’ number.
Ford, who will duel with Johnny Sexton in a Lions fly-half audition, admits it will end a long two months spent living amid strict coronavirus safety protocols in the squad’s bubble in south west London.
“We want to finish really well and off the back of last week’s performance we want to go out there again and really put out a good performance and get a good result,” Ford said.
“We want to leave it all out there. It’s our last game together for a while. We spoke about all those sort of things to make sure we make the most of this.
“In terms of emotionally leaving it out there, we will be doing that as a team. It has been almost nine weeks now of being under these Covid restrictions and there are lads with families and kids.
“People miss home very much, so I imagine the thought of being able to go back to family and loved ones is nice. We had a couple of disappointing performances early in the tournament but when we came back in you couldn’t ask for two more competitive, challenging games than France and Ireland.”
Ireland have to trawl back to Twickenham in 2018 for their last success in the fixture and they are still finding their way under Andy Farrell, who took over from Joe Schmidt after the 2019 World Cup.
“Against a real tough team like Ireland, the first thing you need to do is win the physicality of the game – and we have spoken about that this week. We’ve got a good pack that can do the business in terms of that,” Ford said.
“But Ireland have got some brilliant attacking players who understand the right time to keep ball in hand and they understand where the space is. That makes them a very dangerous team.
“They have threats in every area. But ultimately while we might have a good idea of how the game might go, we don’t have a clue until we are in the heat of the moment.
“The key is that not one Test match has ever been the same as the one before. We have to make sure we are ready whenever that opportunity comes.”
Defence coach John Mitchell insists England refuse to be seduced by their four-Test winning run against Ireland when the countries clash for the 138th time.
“You never have Ireland’s number. They’re a tenacious side and a tenacious country,” Mitchell said. “They fight bloody hard for each other. They’ll rip in, there’s no doubt about that. But we’re ready for all that. They’ll see the breakdown as an opportunity against us. It’s going to be a war at the breakdown which is something we’re ready for.
“It comes down to being able to get on to the front foot and being able to implant how we want to play the game. We have to get on to the front foot and stop their momentum.”
France’s Grand Slam march was ended by a mixture of attacking endeavour and resilience, but Jones has cautioned against the expectation that England will be able to show similar enterprise against Ireland.
It is a theme continued by Mitchell following a training week during which extra time has been spent honing aerial skills in expectation of the hosts’ finely-tuned kicking game.
“We want to perform well and finish positively as a group. This game will be somewhat different to the last Test match and we need to be very clear about that,” Mitchell said. “This game is going to be highly unstructured with a lot of kicking in the air and it will be very physical.”
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