There is no doubt in my mind that England can win in Dublin on Saturday, which would be the perfect way to set up a huge year.
It is likely to be a one-score game, and could be a classic. I view this as a knockout game, with a knockout mentality. Joe Schmidt has never lost a home game in the Six Nations, so if England are to win they will have to get everything right.
Here is my five-point plan to beat the Irish.
There is no doubt in my mind that England can beat Ireland in Dublin on Saturday evening
UP THE TEMPO
The England forward pack should have no qualms about getting into a physical battle with Ireland — there is nothing to worry Maro Itoje, George Kruis and the rest; they should be rubbing their hands together.
Those two and the Vunipolas could have a really big day in Dublin. But the key for England is to play physically and fast.
England’s pack is six stone heavier than Ireland’s, but don’t get carried away by those statistics. They must not get dragged into a slow game with driving lineouts and lots of scrums.
England can physically dominate, not by playing slowly but by playing fast and aggressively, especially at the breakdown, producing lots of quick ball.
Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler are three of the heaviest forwards on the park, but all are super-mobile. They have huge roles to play.
England’s Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler (pictured) have huge roles to play
USE TUILAGI INTELLIGENTLY
Utilise Manu Tuilagi in a way that Ireland are not expecting — kicking and passing, not just blasting through.
Eddie Jones has picked a very attacking team, with Elliot Daly, Henry Slade, Jonny May and Jack Nowell, so attack and don’t get sucked into using Tuilagi as just a ball-carrier.
He is much better than that, and if they use him as a dummy runner to draw in defenders at times, England can really create some joy out wide.
Utilise Manu Tuilagi in a way that Ireland are not expecting — kicking and passing
Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw is a fantastic player, but he is a centre. He has played just once at full-back in his Test career and that was on his debut against the USA in 2013. It’s a big call from Schmidt to move him.
If I were Eddie I would be excited about Henshaw playing full-back. There have been a few questions about Daly, but crikey, at least he has played on the wing and at full-back. Playing centre or full-back are worlds apart. I wouldn’t target him in the air as he is good under the high ball, but what I would do is turn him around with clever, low kicks into the corners.
I don’t think his kicking game will be that strong, so England can put pressure on him by putting the ball wide of him at full-back, chase like hell and force him into mistakes at the back.
If I were Eddie Jones I would be excited about Robbie Henshaw playing full-back for Ireland
BUILD THE SCORE
England must take every kick at goal on Saturday. Don’t get into testosterone battles, take every point available.
That means coming back to my favourite topic: drop goals. Aim to kick three in the first half — that will take the wind out of the sails of the home crowd and suddenly you have nine points and should be ahead on the scoreboard. England often keep the ball for too many phases, don’t score and end up conceding a penalty.
What you don’t want to do against a really well-organised defence is go through 30 phases and end up nowhere.
You can’t defend drop goals, so if you get early possession and are under the posts, go three points ahead.
The forward pack will love it if Owen Farrell can turn possession and territory into easy points
This is a must-win game, so every time England get into the Irish 22, they must come back with something.
The forward pack will love it if Owen Farrell, who is a good drop-goal kicker, can turn possession and territory into easy points.
England have not scored a try in Dublin since 2011. My team scored five in 2003, but aside from that England only managed one in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009 — and none on their three last visits to the Aviva Stadium.
The last time England won there, in 2013, the score was 12-6, so history tells you tries are hard to come by in Ireland.
Learn from the history. Attempt to score tries, absolutely, but remember that a drop goal is worth three points and a try is five.
Going for drop goals is not negative when you put it like that.
HEADS IN THE FRIDGE
England have quite a feisty team, especially in Itoje, Tuilagi and Farrell, and Ireland will try to wind them up, so it is paramount they do not rise to it and keep 15 players on the pitch.
They don’t need to be angels, but if you go a man down to this Irish team, they will cause trouble. Heads in the fridge, bodies on fire is the mantra.
England have to be clever. The referee favours the home team subconsciously so they cannot get into any niggles and must keep the penalty count low.
French referee Jerome Garces is not scared of flashing cards, having handed out three in his last Six Nations game when Wales played Italy.
That means staying wary of high tackles, too. One silly penalty or high shot could lose this game.
England have quite a feisty team, especially in Maro Itoje (pictured), Tuilagi and Farrell