Ireland in historic test….

Despite the protests, Ireland take the field in what has to be a serious test of nerve (and my own highly speculative five pounds on Ireland to take the Championship).

England arrive relatively buoyant, but the feeling always lurked that Scotland made them look better than they are, and after their pedantic effort against Italy, their true level probably lies somewhere in between.

The debutant David Strettle will bring a youthful and pacy confidence to their wing but the reborn Jason Robinson, ruled out yesterday, has undoubtedly been their sharpest cutting edge. Alongside Olly Morgan, making his first Test start away from home, it gives their back three a callow look.

The perming of Wilkinson and Andy Farrell’s distribution has undoubtedly given England more width. Even so, the quicker the tempo, the better Ireland’s chances. For sure they have to start proactively and crank up the physical intensity – as they did in the second-half against France – from the very kick-off. Rugby is a simple yet brutal game.

First and foremost it’s a fight. Ireland didn’t seem quite attuned to that the last day until after the fight had commenced, but against England, under the Saturday-night lights at Croke Park, such relative passivity will surely not be repeated.

As pertinent as Wilkinson’s dodgy hamstring is O’Driscoll’s healed hamstring. It was eye-opening that his absence was so manifest against France, as much in defence as attack, but the boon of his return may also be felt in D’Arcy and Shane Horgan returning to their natural positions.

O’Driscoll’s defending in the outside centre channel and his potency may well free up his fellow Leinster gamebreakers and even the likes of David Wallace and Denis Leamy. Peter Stringer’s service should also offer the kind of tempo Ireland need.