Eddie Jones will enter tomorrow’s critical showdown with Ireland relishing the pressure that accompanies the most challenging spell of his England reign.
The Grand Slam is the prize at stake for Joe Schmidt’s men at Twickenham, while Jones is hoping his deposed NatWest 6 Nations champions halt a losing run that spans dismal defeats to Scotland and France.
It is the first time during Jones’s 27-Test reign that England have entered reverse, but the Australian is embracing the uncertainty that has engulfed his regime.
“I love it. This is what we get paid for as coaches,” said Jones.
“It’s the best time in rugby, when you are under the pump and you have got to produce it. And the team feels the same way. Without a doubt this is my most testing time here and it’s going to be good for us.
“I’ve spoken to a number of people about it. I’m not going to share who.
It’s probably more than any other tournament I’ve experienced about your ability to not get over-aroused, not to be under-aroused, to be at the right arousal level.England head coach, Eddie Jones
“I always consult people because I am not the reservoir of wisdom. I look to other people to see how we can improve all the time.”
Jones insists the key to foiling Ireland is to ensure England are operating at “peak arousal state”.
“You don’t understand what the Six Nations is until you’re really in it. The emotional part of the game is enormous in the Six Nations,” Jones said.
“It’s probably more than any other tournament I’ve experienced about your ability to not get over-aroused, not to be under-aroused, to be at the right arousal level.
“Looking back at Scotland we were probably over-aroused and sometimes it looks like lethargy and again that was my responsibility, I got it wrong.
“So for this game it’s important we get it right and I think it’s building up nicely. There’s a peak arousal state you want to be in.”
Jones sought to draw a line under the derogatory comments made about Ireland and Wales as he performed radical surgery on his team for the Twickenham encounter.
Jones was forced to apologise on Wednesday night after footage emerged of him referring to the newly-crowned champions as the “scummy Irish” and Wales as a “little s*** country” during a talk on leadership given last year.
Speaking publicly on the matter for the first time yesterdayday, Jones refused to expand on his remarks.
“I’ve apologised for the remarks. I sincerely mean that,” said Jones. “I don’t have anything else to say on the matter. I ‘m happy to obviously answer questions on a fantastic game that’s coming up but the other matter is dead.”
Ireland face opposition showing a total of 10 changes, three of them positional switches, following the 22-16 defeat by France in Paris five days ago.
George Ford is dropped for only the second time of the Jones era in response to a disappointing Six Nations in which he has struggled to exert any influence behind a pack that has been bullied.
Owen Farrell moves to fly-half with Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph forming a new look centre partnership and Elliot Daly has recovered from his foot injury to continue on the left wing. Scrum-half Danny Care is demoted to the replacements, making way for Richard Wigglesworth, and Anthony Watson retains his full-back spot ahead of Mike Brown.
There are changes to the pack too with Dan Cole dropped for Kyle Sinckler at prop and George Kruis picked ahead of Joe Launchbury in the second row.
Knee injuries to Nathan Hughes and Courtney Lawes see Sam Simmonds and James Haskell start, while captain Dylan Hartley is restored at hooker.
England: 15 A Watson (Bath 32 caps), 14 J May (Leicester 33), 13 J Joseph (Bath 39), 12 Ben Te’o (Worcester 12), 11 E Daly (Wasps 17), 10 O Farrell (Saracens 57), 9 R Wigglesworth (Saracens 30), 1 M Vunipola (Saracens 48), 2 D Hartley (Northampton 92), 3 K Sinckler (Harlequins 9), 4 M Itoje (Saracens 18), 5 G Kruis (Saracens 24), 6 C Robshaw (Harlequins 63), 7 J Haskell (Wasps 76), 8 S Simmonds (Exeter 6). Replacements: 16 J George (Saracens 24), 17 J Marler (Harlequins 55), 18 D Cole (Leicester 81), 19 J Launchbury (Wasps 51), 20 D Armand (Exeter 1), 21 D Care (Harlequins 80), 22 G Ford (Leicester 44), 23 M Brown (Harlequins 68).