England will be out to “destroy” Ireland’s maul in order to derail Joe Schmidt’s Triple Crown tilt, according to hooker Rory Best.
Front-rower Best has warned England’s forwards coach Graham Rowntree will whip England into a frenzy to dismantle Ireland’s driving weapon at Twickenham on Saturday.
Ulster hooker Best worked under Rowntree on last summer’s successful British and Irish Lions tour to Australia, and knows from experience the former Leicester man prioritises “physical dominance”.
Isaac Boss is expected to recover from concussion in time to contest selection for Saturday’s round-three RBS 6 Nations clash, team manager Mick Kearney confirmed.
Ireland’s management expect Luke Fitzgerald and Tommy Bowe to be fit for the final two rounds, against Italy and France, while Darren Cave will be monitored this weekend after “abdominal soreness”.
Ulster stalwart Best expects a gruesome forward battle in west London on Saturday, with Rowntree masterminding the England pack’s bid to deny Ireland a third-straight Six Nations victory.
“He’s going to be drumming that into them all week: there’s been a lot made of our maul, so he’ll want to make a point of destroying that,” said Best.
“He played in a very physical Leicester team, that’s his grounding, that’s what he’s going to expect from his players when we go out to play them on Saturday.
“And it’s all about physical dominance with him. You dominate up front, you dominate the game.
“No one makes any secret of the fact that’s how you win games.
“And he’ll be drumming that into them all week, there’s no doubt. There’ll be a lot of technical aspects, but a lot of it will also come down to mindset.”
Best believes Dan Cole’s disc problem in his neck is a “massive blow” for England, but warned Ireland not to expect an easy scrum ride in the Leicester tighthead’s absence.
Bath’s David Wilson has found fitness at the perfect time to slot in, with 31-year-old Best still anticipating a severe scrummaging challenge.
“Dan’s only missed two of Stuart Lancaster’s squads and that’s when he’s been away with the Lions,” said Best.
“From an English point of view it’s coincided well with Davey Wilson playing for Bath last weekend.
“The scrum’s going to be a massive part of this game.
“Two years ago we certainly got beaten up there, to put it mildly, and it cost us the match. And it’s going to be no different this weekend.
“They have a very good scrum, no matter who they bring in, whoever gets the opportunity to fill Dan Cole’s shirt, they are going to be very tough.
“Their scrum has been going very well, their line-out has been exceptional, and we know that we need to at very worst match that.”
Best replaced Dylan Hartley on last summer’s Lions tour, after the Northampton hooker was sent off in the Aviva Premiership final for swearing and calling referee Wayne Barnes a cheat.
The 72-cap Ireland hooker is adamant Hartley has finally learned his disciplinary lesson, and considers him a potent threat.
“He’s shown this season in particular what a good player he is,” said Best.
“He’s brought a real edge to his game recently, going right to the limit without going past it, which he’s maybe been guilty of in the past.
“He obviously digressed a little bit at the end of the last season and it cost him a massive honour, but he’s learned a lot from that, you can see.
“There’s no doubting his rugby ability, and he’s obviously focusing on that now.”