Sunderland Echo - - Sport -

Sam Sim­monds in­sists Eng­land’s Grand Slam dis­ap­point­ment last year will act as mo­ti­va­tion to ruin Ire­land’s St Pa­trick’s Day cel­e­bra­tions.

Joe Sch­midt’s men have al­ready re­lieved Satur­day’s op­po­nents at Twick­en­ham of the NatWest 6 Na­tions crown and are one vic­tory away from claim­ing the ul­ti­mate prize in north­ern hemi­sphere rugby.

Twelve months ago, Eng­land stood on the brink of sim­i­lar ac­claim, only to suc­cumb 13-9 in Dublin, their ti­tle vic­tory marred by the knowl­edge they had fallen at the fi­nal hur­dle of the Grand Slam.

Si mm onds had yet to make his de­but when the ri­vals clashed in 2017, but the Ex­eter No 8 has de­tected a thirst for re­venge, even if Ed­die Jones re­gards the emo­tion as a poor mo­ti­va­tor.

“There are boys here who are ex­pe­ri­enced and have played good Ire­land teams in the past,” Sim­monds said.

“Look­ing back on last year and los­ing in Ire­land, that will be an in­cen­tive to push on this week­end.

“If we per­form well we know re­sults do come from that. Hope­fully we put on a good per­for­mance for the Twick­en­ham crowd.”

Eng­land’s pur­suit of an un­prece­dented hat-trick of ti­tles has ended with suc­ces­sive de­feats to Scot­land and France and, if their los­ing run is ex­tended to three games, it will be their worst Six Na­tions per­for­mance since 2006.

“We have a job to do be­cause to owe our­self and our fans. We want to keep our record go­ing and be the dom­i­nant force and put our game on this Ir­ish side,” Sim­monds said.

“We are not happy with per­for­mances and re­sults of the last cou­ple of weeks, but it’s a huge game against Ire­land and we are all push­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

“This week’s prepa­ra­tion will go to­wards show­ing what we can do as a team and how much it will mean to us.”

Eng­land’s break­down short­com­ings have been ex­posed to dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect over the last two rounds with Jones warn­ing it might not be un­til next year’s World Cup be­fore team are com­fort­able in this area.

Sim­monds is set to start at No 8 against Ire­land af­ter Nathan Hughes was ruled out by a knee in­jury and the 23-year-old will have a key role to play in fix­ing the prob­lem.

“It’s frus­trat­ing, but it can only be im­proved by us. We know we have to be bet­ter at it and that comes with your speed into the break­down,” Sim­monds said.

“We have talked about push­ing more play­ers to­wards it, but it’s also an in­di­vid­ual thing with your mind­set and phys­i­cal­ity about how fast you get to those ar­eas to re­move and al­most stop the threat.

“We put a mas­sive em­pha­sis to stop that threat. You have to be there in a split sec­ond or you lose the ball.

“It’s frus­trat­ing los­ing the ball and turnovers do hap­pen. There are mis­takes, it is just how you re­act from that.”

Nathan Hughes, ruled out of this week’s game with a knee in­jury, takes on France in last week’s shock de­feat in Paris.

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