Eddie Jones says the pressure will be on Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday when England aim to become the first visiting country to win there since the autumn of 2016.
Champions Ireland have won their last 12 home matches, beating all the other tier-one nations in that run, and they have not lost in the Six Nations in Dublin since England won 12-6 there in 2013.
“Ireland have got to carry the weight of pressure,” said England’s head coach when asked if his side would be the underdogs at the weekend. “I am not too worried about Ireland, to be honest. All we can do is prepare as best we can. What people think, whether we are underdogs or favourites, doesn’t affect us.”
Jones said he was glad that Billy Vunipola was fit again. The Saracens No 8 has started only one of England’s last 10 matches in the Six Nations – the defeat in Dublin two years ago – and he will be their leader in the battle of the gainline.
“We are expecting a physical game and I am sure Ireland are as well,” said Jones, when asked to comment on his opposite number Joe Schmidt’s belief that England would try to “brutalise” Ireland. “I have not seen a Six Nations game that is not brutal. That’s the game we play.
“It is excellent to have Billy back. He is probably not at his best at the moment but he will be. He is a big guy with footwork who can do the unexpected. He attracts defenders which creates space for other players and he is a guy who takes people forward with him.
“We play a game that’s played on the gainline. Win that battle and you generally win. Part of the game is having a surprise here or there, but generally they are not the things that win Test matches.”