Strength is depth, it is a phrase that we have been itching to be able to use to describe England Rugby for a long time and if I'm brutally honest the words never quite fitted perfectly, instead England had depth but only in pockets, in one or two positions. However now in March 2015, in a World Cup Year the shoe fits, just look at the quality of the individuals that were released back to their Aviva Premiership Clubs Of course, form and injuries have played a part in that however you have to be excited by the resources that are now available to Stuart Lancaster.
Every side has their defining matches, the games in which they take themselves to another level for 80 minutes and as a result it flicks a switch of belief and provides a high base to work off. Cardiff two weeks ago was one of them and should England deliver and triumph over Ireland tomorrow, it will be another. At the start of the year when Stuart Lancaster announced his England Rugby Training Squad he highlighted very clearly that the development stage is over and this year it is all about winning. Now, a month of so on he has shown this with a pleasing ruthlessness in his selection as Jonny May is not only dropped from the starting XV, he is out of the squad entirely. That action highlights to the entire squad that mistakes simply won't be tolerated, England mean business and if you are to retain your shirt then you have to deliver, without exception.
In Dublin England must be controlled and play clever rugby, against Ireland territory is paramount and that is why there has been so much focus this week on the English backs. Precision off the boot is vital, England must play in Ireland's half and with a back line in which nearly all of the 7 players are known for their proficient kicking games you hope that would be possible. The back three, Nowell, Goode and Watson may not have played Test match rugby with each other before however they have the advantage of all knowing the nuances of the Full Back position well having each delivered matches there for their clubs. This understanding, coupled with the thorough analysis that has gone on this week means that positionally they have no excuses, even against the master that is Jonathan Sexton.
Of course a huge spotlight falls on George Ford to dictate the shape of the game, it is a large ask for the man deemed to be 'the apprentice' to Sexton opposite him the however Ford has done this many a time for Bath and has the temperament to absorb that expectation and deliver. Up front England have the measure of Ireland, the English set piece is a weapon of mass destruction and should be a source of confidence and power for the side. Marler, Hartley and Cole will face into the McGrath, Best and Ross and every dark art will be utilised. All of the men behind them, from both sides, play the game with gladiatorial physicality and on the green grass of the Aviva blood will be shed for the cause and the breakdown will be a fearful place to be.
Exactly like Twickenham twelve months ago this game will require every ounce of physical and mental effort from the Northern Hemisphere's two top sides, it will be an arm wrestle of seismic proportions and a one of the great test matches of the tournament. England must start fast, they'll head out onto the pitch 12 minutes before kick off to take part in the formalities of meeting the president however they cannot let that impact them for a slow start at the Aviva simply won't cut it, not in 2015, not against Schmidt's men. This will be a game that is won by the side that delivers their game plan, cooly, precisely and with intelligence. Start preparing yourselves for it is going to be emotional...