Maro Itoje has called on Twickenham to pump up the volume for an England-Ireland clash billed as “titanic” by Eddie Jones.
Itoje sounded his rallying cry as team mate Courtney Lawes showed just how up for the fight England are by emerging from the final training session sporting a massive black eye.
Jones comes into today’s showdown under pressure after talking himself into trouble and naming a team with numerous square pegs in round holes.
On seeing the selection Sir Clive Woodward tipped Ireland to win, branding Jones’ strategy of picking players out of position ‘high-risk’.
The Australian insists his players are hitting form at just the right time to cope with the unbeaten Six Nations co-leaders and predicted: “This will be a titanic clash”.
And Itoje claimed to be in no doubt that with a full house roaring them on, England can end Ireland’s Triple Crown dream and catapult themselves back into the title reckoning.
He said: “The last couple of games I have played at Twickenham it has been as noisy as anywhere I have played in the world.
“It has been really, really special, the crowd have really brought into the type of game we are trying to play and it has been a very warm environment to play in, super loud.
“When you have that support and the going gets tough, it does really put an extra spring in your step. So please, the more noise the better.”
Since Andy Farrell took charge post World Cup, Ireland have worked hard with their players to establish what it means to be Irish and to tap into that emotional seam – even inviting into camp U2 frontman Bono.
But Itoje reckons it is a nonsense to suggest any country has a monopoly on national pride and says he and his team mates are every bit as passionate about playing for the flag.
“We take a lot of pride in this country,” insisted Itoje, nominating actor Idris Elba as the public figure he would choose to inspire him.
“We’re blessed to be a part of it. And to be a part of the England team is a huge honour. It’s a huge thing that each and every player holds dear.
“Especially playing at home there’s a huge culture, a huge buy in, a huge collective spirit. I think we’re going to show that a lot this weekend.”
Evidence of how much today’s game means to the players came in the form of Lawes’ shiner – a nearly closed right eye caused by an eve-of-game collision yesterday.
Itoje admits the intensity has cranked up this week, “probably” due to team mates “not understanding what 50 per cent means and going in at 100 per cent!”
The time for fighting amongst themselves is over. Judgement hour has arrived.
ENGLAND: Daly; May, Tuilagi, Farrell (capt), Joseph; Ford, Youngs; Marler, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Lawes, Underhill, Curry.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Genge, Stuart, Launchbury, Ewels, Earl, Heinz, Slade.
IRELAND: Larmour; Conway, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton (capt), Murray; Healy, Herring, Furlong, Toner, Ryan, O'Mahony, van der Flier, Stander.
Replacements: Kelleher, Kilcoyne, Porter, Dillame, Doris, Cooney, Byrne, Earls.
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