ENGLAND flanker James Haskell has urged his side to counter Ireland’s attempts to bend the rules in their showdown in Dublin on Sunday, which could determine the destination of the Six Nations title.
Like Ireland, the Red Rose boast a perfect championship record so far but have been guilty of sluggish starts and conceded early points against Wales at the Millennium Stadium and Italy at Twickenham before redressing the balance.
Haskell insists it is imperative to subdue reigning champions Ireland in the early stages at the Aviva Stadium and deny their rivals the opportunity to impose their shrewd game-plan.
“Irish teams have that ability to be physical and play right on the edge, plus they have that X-factor to finish chances off,” said Wasps skipper Haskell, who has faced leading province Leinster twice this season in the European Champions Cup.
“Against Leinster in Coventry I talked to the referee about a couple of things the Irish do very well and that are on the line. If they get away with it things can become difficult, and they did get away with it. If you are matching Ireland on the gain line, dealing with their competitive nature with your own physicality then all of those things can be eradicated.
“You only get smatterings of it happening. However, if you are on the back foot it will be the most difficult afternoon you can have in international rugby. We are fully aware of the need to start well and not as we did in Cardiff and against Italy.”
The choke tackle has emerged as a talking point this week after Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards claimed the technique endangered the safety of players and should be outlawed from the game.
The method of tackling first came to prominence in 2011 and Ireland remain the primary exponents of the tactic, although Haskell does not envisage the tackle being a defining factor.
“I don’t think it’s a game-changer and it won’t decide Sunday’s game,” added Haskell. “Andy Farrell is our defence coach and he never talks about using it. We’re about being physical and getting guys to the ground and I much prefer that.”
Ireland v England in Dublin
Alex Goode, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Luther Burrell, Jack Nowell, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole, Dave Attwood, George Kruis, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw (c), Billy Vunipola
Replacements: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Kieran Brookes, Tom Croft, Nick Easter, Richard Wigglesworth, Danny Cipriani, Billy Twelvetrees