Honesty the best policy for England as Ireland await

“The best thing about this group is that we are very honest” – James Haskell after England’s 25-20 defeat by France a couple of weeks ago.

There’s been a lot of talk about honesty emerging from the England camp over the last two weeks; about performance levels, about selection dilemmas, about results and about expectations.

That blunt attitude was clear in the immediate fallout from England’s defeat by France in their last outing – and now they have the chance to put some of those words into action on Saturday against RBS 6 Nations champions Ireland.

Honesty will only take you so far though, and England have made no bones about the fact that a much-improved performance is what’s required at Twickenham this weekend.

England’s HQ will once again become the fortress of south west London, with another full house expected and the red rose proudly worn by some of the most passionate rugby fans on the planet.

One key area that Stuart Lancaster and his coaching staff have targeted is the line-out, with Geoff Parling brought in to the second row alongside Courtney Lawes to add his nous and expertise to the equation against a formidable Irish pack.

Meanwhile, flanker Tom Wood returns to stake his claim on the blindside alongside number 8 Ben Morgan, who’ll get another outing after his recovery from a broken leg as England seek to fine tune their back-row balance and get on top at the breakdown.

For many though, the focus will once again be on the centres with the pairing of Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph starting a Test together for the first time.
Rock-solid defence, line-breaking ability and sheer pace – the key attributes are certainly there in abundance.

The duo have worked together for several weeks in training, and Lancaster expects them to hit the ground running. “When you have two quality players with the work we have done you should be confident they will be cohesive,” he said.

Now England want their midfield maestros to produce the goods as part of a potentially thrilling backline which also contains speedsters Jonny May and Anthony Watson and the play-making abilities of George Ford at fly-half.

The spotlight is on England like never before. Tests of character don’t come much bigger. Honestly.