Johnson: Pressure is on Ireland
March 18, 2011
Flood: England are desperate for Grand Slam
England manager Martin Johnson believes that the pressure is on Ireland prior to their clash at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, despite the fact that the visitors are chasing a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003.
While England head into the game off the back of four wins, their hosts have struggled to impose themselves on the tournament, with last weekend's controversial loss to Wales their second after an earlier home defeat to France.
"I think we have put down some markers and if we can finish it off tomorrow it will be great," Johnson said. "We have been in two or three really close games and have just managed to keep ourselves the right side of it. Ireland haven't and lost them.
"The pressure is probably on them in a way, in this situation. They've had a couple of disappointing results. I think there's more pressure on them than there is on us.
"We've got pressure on us every game, and we're not denying that, but it's an opportunity for us this week and we're looking forward to it. Everything comes around to performing, whatever way you look at it.
"Days like tomorrow are about being able to control the ball in the heat of the game and the heat of the battle and giving ourselves opportunities. If we do that, then we need to take them.
"We have talked about it all week. We just need to give it a crack tomorrow. We know the pitfalls of playing these guys and we can't fall into them. Our guys are as excited as they've been for any game this year. We see this as an opportunity more than anything.
"We have an opportunity to win a Grand Slam and that's a great place to be, that's where we want to be going into a big game. These guys are ready to really have a crack."
Johnson wore the captain's armband the last time England completed a clean sweep, but his side only sealed the deal after notable heartache in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
"It was ridiculous what that team had been through," he said. "We probably thought we had to win in a certain way at times. Our mindset tomorrow is that we have to win it the way we have to win it - and that's a healthy one to have. We want to play a certain way but we have to be smart as well and play what is in front of us. We know what is at stake but you have got to park that."
Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll has called for his men to 'live in the moment' and ignore the hype that has dominated the build-up to the game. The Leinster centre, who was on the losing side when England ran riot in 2003, is expecting Johnson's side to keep their cool.
"England will be realistic. They have a manager in Martin Johnson who's been there and done it. He'll be telling them that nothing's owed to them," he said. "They'll have to grab it and they'll treat the game much like we are - as just another 80 minutes. What will come after that final whistle will come. There's no point trying to put extra pressure on yourself. Just live in the moment and play the best rugby you can.
"The team that beat us in the 2003 Grand Slam decider in Dublin had been so close on a number of occasions, losing in just one game. They used the pain of those defeats to get them right for 2003. This team has been building for a few years and now Martin Johnson has settled on a team he's comfortable with."
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