Ireland's Marcus Horan warns that England are capable of replicating the success they enjoyed in last year's clash when the two sides lock horns at Croke Park tomorrow.
England, the 2007 World Cup finalists, were roundly beaten by the southern hemisphere’s heavyweights during the autumn, and looked unconvincing in their RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy.
But they were applauded for a gripping 23-15 defeat by favourites Wales, hinting at a revival that Horan believes underlines the threat they pose.
“England will be hurting after losing to Wales two weeks ago and they’ll be wanting to prove a point,” said Horan.
“As much as anyone they’ll want to prove that point to their very inspirational coach - a guy who’s under huge pressure. They’ll be wanting to do right by him.
“England looked very strong defensively against Wales - very hard to break down.
“They are a great rugby-playing nation. People are saying that things aren’t going well for them but we’d be foolish to take them lightly.
“People are talking about Ireland and the Grand Slam but none of us are thinking beyond England.
“We’d never show disrespect to any team, let alone one as strong as England.
“We’ve analysed them a lot over the past few weeks and they’re a team that’s hurting and will want to prove a point to their critics.
“That’s a dangerous team to face. We’ve got to realise that and really up our game.”
Ireland have dominated the contest for the Millennium Trophy since conceding the 2003 Grand Slam decider, winning four out of the last five encounters.
The only stain on that sequence came at Twickenham last year, when a Danny Cipriani-inspired England capitalised on plummeting Irish morale to emerge 33-10 winners.
A disastrous World Cup and difficult 2008 RBS 6 Nations sapped Ireland’s confidence with Cipriani’s man of the match display sealing the fate of head coach Eddie O’Sullivan.
“We’re hurting from last year’s performance at Twickenham,” said Horan.
“We’ve a lot to prove in that aspect and that’ll definitely be a motivating factor for us.
“Last year over there was really disappointing for us and we want to put that right. We let ourselves down.
“The big thing for us is that we keep fighting right until the end.
“And if we can start well and put them under pressure, doubts might start creeping into their minds.
“But it’s all down to us and how we cope with the physicality of it.”
The Croke Park factor further highlights England’s task, as they revisit the scene of their record 43-13 RBS 6 Nations defeat two years ago.
No Irish player will want to be part of a team that has lost to England at the bastion of Gaelic sport, yet Horan plays down the significance of the setting and fixture has diminished.
“It was more of a national occasion in 2007 because of the enormity of what was going on outside of the squad,” he said.
“That has settled down - now it’s purely about rugby. If you’re looking for a driving force like what was there two years ago it’s probably gone.
“Instead, we’ll need to look within ourselves and pull out a big performance.”