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England primed for Irish onslaught

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Sportal.co.nz     06 Feb 2013     Getty Images

Lancaster is determined to produce a better performance that when the countries last met at Lansdowne Road two years ago.

England were looking to complete the Grand Slam in 2011, but instead came up against a ferocious Irish side that ran out 24-6 winners.

While there are likely to be only five survivors from England's starting XV on that disappointing afternoon, Lancaster is sure England have the quality to match Ireland.

"This is a completely different team going to Dublin from 2011, with a completely different mentality," he told reporters.

"That said, playing the Irish in Dublin is a unique challenge. We've got to be able to deal with the emotion of the occasion and still think clearly, making good, accurate decisions.

"That will be the true test of our maturity. It's a great challenge for us.

"Experiences like Johannesburg have definitely made us stronger. In all three of the Tests in South Africa the players learned some lessons about what it takes to get there - we all did.

"Mentally, we've got to be in the right place but that comes from the confidence we build in training."

England name their team on Thursday, with the centre partnership once again the source of greatest discussion following Manu Tuilagi's return to fitness after four weeks out with an ankle injury.

Meanwhile, Ireland centre Keith Earls is the biggest injury concern for coach Declan Kidney.

Earls, who replaced Gordon D'Arcy during the second half of Ireland's 30-22 victory against Wales on Saturday, will see a specialist after suffering a shoulder injury.

Earls' injury is one of five from the Cardiff victory that has forced Kidney to delay naming his side until Friday.

Kidney also faces an anxious wait over the fitness of Peter O'Mahony, who suffered a head injury, while Brian O'Driscoll required several stitches in a head wound.

O'Driscoll, who is being tipped to captain the British & Irish Lions on their tour of Australia later this year, has resumed training along with prop Mike Ross, who was forced to retire against Wales with severe cramp.

Fullback Rob Kearney reported stiffness in his back after the game and underwent a precautionary scan, which reported no injury.

Captain Jamie Heaslip is delighted with Kidney's push to create a 'club' atmosphere among the squad.

"We talked in the summer about trying to make this like our own club. The Irish jersey is a privilege and honour to wear and there is a lot of prestige about it," Heaslip said.

"At half-time when I take my jersey off to put a new one on, I don't throw it on the ground. I put it on the hook. It deserves that honour.

"We train as we play. If we don't make mistakes in training, there is less chance of making them in games. There is a lot of emphasis then placed on the guys who aren't starting, which is tough if you are not picked for a match squad.

"You might be a starter for your club but if you aren't starting for Ireland, you just have to take it on the chin and go with it. If the opportunity comes to play, then you take it.

"That's why we want a club atmosphere in the 30-man squad. We are in it together and we have got to live that."