Ireland will have to produce the same display against England in a fortnight that they did against Wales to keep alive their hopes of a second Six Nations Grand Slam in three years, says Johnny Sexton.
The 34-year-old Ireland captain takes his side to Twickenham on February 23 where they secured the Grand Slam two years ago.
However, Sexton says they have too often come up short at England and will require the level of performance they produced in the 24-14 victory over last year’s Grand Slam champions Wales.
The last two meetings between Ireland and Eddie Jones’s side have gone England’s way — a 32-20 win in Dublin last February which is Ireland’s only home defeat in their last 18 Six Nations Tests and a 57-15 walloping in a World Cup warm-up match last August.
“Yeah, we’re going to have to be up there like we were today but it’s away from home and it’s against a team who were World Cup finalists,” said Sexton after the Wales game.
“But they’re a top quality side and the last two times we’ve played England they’ve given us a right old spanking.
“So we need to up our game from those levels of performances.
“Yeah, it’s a tough place to go Twickenham — we haven’t had too many victories over the years and it’ll be no different now coming into this game.”
If anyone can engineer a victory over England, though, head coach Andy Farrell says Sexton can.
“I’m asking quite a bit of him and he’s coming to the table with his own ideas,” said Farrell.
“That’s exactly what we want.”
Farrell also dismissed concerns that Sexton will not play until the next World Cup in 2023.
However, his class shone through when, in his first game back after a two-month absence, he scored all 19 points in the win over the Scots.
“We’ll see (if he makes it),” said Farrell.
“You know what? That far ahead doesn’t really matter, because it’s guaranteed he will make people better all around him.
“Whatever happens in the future will be good for us.”
-‘X-factor is special’ –
Farrell, whose son Owen will captain England at Twickenham, said claiming two straight wins since he replaced Joe Schmidt after the World Cup was satisfying.
“It is important but I suppose at this stage for us it just about learning the lessons and getting better and understanding what we are trying to achieve,” he said.
“I just said to the lads in the changing room that it is a great place to be, you have got two from two and there is still plenty to fix.”
Farrell was especially happy with the improvement that full-back Jordan Larmour showed against Wales.
The 22-year-old scored a try and also produced some superb clearing kicks.
Farrell could see similarities between Larmour and England’s 2003 World Cup winner Jason Robinson, who like the Ireland coach starred in both league and union.
“He’s learning the whole time, Jordan,” said Farrell.
“I thought his ability to read the game was way better this week, I’m very keen to keep developing his decision-making as far as the back-play is concerned but at the same time making sure I don’t dampen anything he’s about because his X-Factor is special.
“Jason and Jordan have got similar type of feet, the way that Jordan broke those tackles for the try he has similar type of strength as well.”