Gatland looking wide for Twickenham success
Ireland will put England's new boys to the test when they kick off their Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championship at Twickenham tomorrow.
Mike Tindall, the promising Bath centre, and Northampton winger Ben Cohen, both 21, will collect their first caps in a new-look England three-quarter line that has had Irish coach Warren Gatland scurrying for inside information.
Experienced Bath and Ireland wing Kevin Maggs, who will also be up against club-mates Mike Catt and Matt Perry, has been giving Gatland the lowdown on the little-known Tindall, who has the daunting task of filling the boots of Jeremy Guscott.
"We've talked to Kevin Maggs about him,'' confirmed Gatland, who has been helped on his homework by new backs coach Eddie O'Sullivan. "We don't know a huge amount but any player playing his first Test will come under a bit of pressure at some stage in the match."
Ireland will be aiming to draw on their customary strength up front, where Peter Clohessy bolsters the front row and 19-stone Bob Casey adds considerable bulk and power to the line-out, but Gatland is also promising a more expansive game as he seeks to pull off a major upset.
By harnessing the exciting talent of Brian O'Driscoll with the experience of New Zealand-born Mike Mullins, Gatland and O'Sullivan are aiming to take on the Bath centres head on.
"In the past, we would have looked at our strengths - a midfield that would have taken the ball up quite well for us and we weren't that quick on the outside," he said. Now we're looking to play a more all-round game, perhaps not moving the ball out wide but keeping it alive and creating some holes in the England
It is six years since Ireland last won at Twickenham, where Eric Elwood enjoyed his finest hour, and they have triumphed at RFU headquarters on only four other occasions in the last 40 years. But team manager Donal Lenihan is banking on the success of Ireland's provinces in Europe this season rubbing off on the national team.
Munster, who provide five players, have successfully donned the mantle of Ulster in storming through to the last eight of the Heineken Cup and Leinster, too, have claimed some notable scalps.
"England has always been a huge difficulty and history is not on our side but the success of provinces have given the whole a squad a huge boost," said Lenihan. "A lot of our home-based players have played against the England boys and that will help. They know the opposition well and there will be no trepidation."