Ashton wants England to improve

England coach Brian Ashton is backing his team to return to their early form seen this year against Scotland for their match against Ireland on Saturday.

England put in a top performance against Scotland and then stuttered against a determined Italian side where they won 20-7.

“I’m confident this will be a much-enhanced performance – the players were so disappointed with the display against Italy,” said Ashton.

“They want to step up two or three gears from there, and to be honest, we know we have to.”

Commenting on England’s last outing Ashton said “We can’t get away with that performance against Ireland, “I hope we are going to be a bit more lively around the pitch for 80 minutes.

“We tended to be one-dimensional against Italy. We got caught in a one-dimensional game, which was not our intention, but that is the way it went.

“We need more dynamism and movement, putting together a game that is going to challenge the Irish defence and putting a defence together that is going to challenge the Irish attack.”

Ashton’s preparations have been hampered by the clubs in England who played 14 out of the 22 named last week for the Ireland match. Six of the starting lineup played the full 80 minutes.

“The normal protocol in professional rugby is that guys have two days’ recovery before they start running around again outdoors, and we have followed that despite the fact there has been a bit of a time restriction this week,” Ashton said.

“The players have been very switched on.

“The week has been split into three sections – organisational for the first part, our two outdoor training sessions for the second part, and the last part will be getting mentally prepared for what lies ahead on Saturday.”

Ireland, in contrast to England’s problems have had an unbroken fortnight of preparation and their captain Brian O’Driscoll has been named in the starting team.

Ashton insists he has “no injury concerns at this stage”.

England will be playing at Croke Park for the first time in history but the stadium has a little bit of history with the English as in 1920 British soldiers killed 14 people inside the stadium.

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