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Martin Johnson wants more from England against Ireland

RBS SIX NATIONS: England v Ireland
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 27 February Kick-off: 1600 GMT
Coverage: Watch on BBC One, BBC HD channel, Red Button and online; listen on Radio 5 live; text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles

Martin Johnson

Johnson wary of Ireland threat

England manager Martin Johnson has warned his side they will lose to Ireland unless they improve on their last two Six Nations displays.

"Ireland come here as the best team from these islands, it is a huge game. We will have to be better than we have been to beat them," he said.

England opened with a 30-17 win over Wales but were criticised for the style of their 17-12 victory over Italy.

Mark Cueto, Johnson's only concern, has recovered from a stomach bug to start.

The Sale winger will take his place in the same line-up that started at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome.

Rory Sweeney

Despite widespread criticism of England's lack of attacking edge in that success, Johnson believes his loyalty to the same set of players will be rewarded with an improvement.

"We are better off for every game we play because the guys are getting used to playing with each other," he said.

"It is a good game to be involved in and it comes at a good time for us, Ireland at home after two wins.

"There will be a full house at Twickenham and we have a chance to try and beat them."

England are the only side to match France's 100% start to the competition and a victory would effectively end Declan Kidney's side's hopes of defending their title.

Johnson believes his loose forwards hold the key to reversing a trend that has see Ireland win five of their last six meetings.

"If we can get quick ball there will be chances to attack but it will be a big challenge for us.

"The breakdown will be key. Their back five forwards are all British and Irish Lions from the last tour. They are very strong in that area."

After winning their first Grand Slam in 61 years last season, Ireland have been underwhelming so far in this campaign.

Historic Hayes refuses to mark time

A laboured win over Italy at Croke Park preceded a miserable 33-10 loss to France in which first-choice hooker Jerry Flannery was cited and banned for the rest of the tournament.

Centre Brian O'Driscoll and flanker Stephen Ferris, two of the original members of the Lions' squad for South Africa last summer, sat out training for Ireland on Friday.

But head coach Kidney brushed aside rumours that O'Driscoll is suffering from a virus and insisted the pair will both will be fit for Twickenham.

Prop John Hayes, a two-time Lion tourist, definitely starts in the front row to win his 100th cap.

By contrast Leinster's Jonathan Sexton, who scored all of Ireland's points in a 15-10 win over South Africa in November, will be making his first Six Nations start.

The 24-year-old will be hoping to convince Kidney that he is ready to succeed the experienced Ronan O'Gara at fly-half on a permanent basis.

England: Armitage; Cueto, Tait, Flutey, Monye; Wilkinson, Care; Payne, Hartley, Cole, Shaw, Borthwick, Haskell, Moody, Easter.

Replacements: Mears, Wilson, Deacon, Worsley, Hodgson, Flood, Foden.

Ireland: Murphy; Bowe, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Earls; Sexton, O'Leary; Healy, Best, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Ferris, Wallace, Heaslip.

Replacements: Cronin, Buckley, Cullen, Jennings, Reddan, O'Gara, Trimble.

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see also
England 16-20 Ireland
27 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
O'Driscoll misses Irish training
26 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott's tactical view
26 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Keith Wood column
24 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Lock O'Callaghan lauds Borthwick
26 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Flannery loses appeal against ban
03 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
England unchanged for Irish clash
23 Feb 10 |  English
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
23 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Sexton handed Irish fly-half spot
23 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson critics annoy Johnson
18 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Italy 12-17 England
14 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
France 33-10 Ireland
13 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations table
10 Aug 06 |  Tables

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