The harsh reality is that come Saturday evening one of England or Ireland will be nursing their wounds in defeat and will head into this Rugby World Cup off the back of two straight losses. The thought of it being England is too painful to think about right now, by hook or by crook England must muscle past Ireland on home soil.
Last night I sat down with a cup of tea and re-watched England's performance at the Stade de France and after twenty minutes I was wishing that my tea had a spot of gin in it such was the frustration of seeing the side give away penalty after penalty. After the full eighty minutes I came to the conclusion that it was the worst England performances that we have seen in months.
This weekend England must deliver from the word go, they cannot feel their way into the game, they must fire out of the blocks, take hold of the game and never give Ireland a chance. Stuart Lancaster has tweaked selection in order to deliver a marked improvement at the set piece and to maximise the number of 'leaders' on the field. Geoff Parling, as first choice lineout caller, enters the row alongside Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood will wear the six jersey as he also offers another jumping option and Ben Morgan is handed the eight shirt for his ability to deliver 'game changing moments'.
History tells us that matches between Ireland and England are fractious and intense at the best of times let alone with the added pressure that the timing of this fixture brings. Ireland name their side on Thursday and we all, including Stuart Lancaster, expect it to be a full strength one and England will have to content with everything that they bring - aerial bombardment and a tremendous physical intensity.
As has been the case for much of the summer they'll be a great deal of focus on the centre partnership as Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph will start their first Test together. One game out from a World Cup the timing isn't ideal however Stuart Lancaster believes that we should still expect plenty from the duo;
"We should expect a strong performance from both. They are both high-quality players. If Brad had been fit for the Six Nations he would have started alongside JJ on the back of what he'd done in the autumn straight up but he wasn't so Luther got his chance. That combination of Ford, Barritt and Joseph have trained together consistently against Farrell, Burrell and Slade for two weeks now. It's not as if we have suddenly put them together on Saturday. There has been a lot of work done together on the training field. Obviously that has to translate into a game. When you have two quality players with the work we have done you should be confident they will be cohesive."
Cohesion across the park is king, we cannot see another performance that is 'blowing the cobwebs away', there simply isn't time for it. A familiar and focused England side must step out onto the pitch at Twickenham Stadium, the England side that we know and love. England must make life immensely difficult for Ireland, they must have a solid and destructive set piece and in attack run lines and moves that make Twickenham explode with noise. England's discipline must be on point, we all know that Nigel Owens is the best in the business and as a collective Chris Robshaw and his side must quickly understand Owens' perspective and adapt to it.
It is fair to say that the pressure on their shoulders of this England XV and bench has escalated to a scale that none will have experienced whilst wearing the red rose of England. The white hot pressure of the Rugby World Cup has arrived, two weeks early, and in the words of Stuart Lancaster 'we will learn a lot about these England players on Saturday afternoon'.
England: 15 Mike Brown 14 Anthony Watson 13 Jonathan Joseph 12 Brad Barritt 11 Jonny May 10 George Ford 9 Ben Youngs 1 Joe Marler 2 Tom Youngs 3 Dan Cole 4 Courtney Lawes 5 Geoff Parling 6 Tom Wood 7 Chris Robshaw (Captain) 8 Ben Morgan Replacements: 16 Jamie George 17 Mako Vunipola 18 Kieran Brookes 19 Joe Launchbury 20 Billy Vunipola 21 Richard Wigglesworth 22 Owen Farrell 23 Sam Burgess