A lot has changed since Ireland last travelled to face England and full-back Hugo Keenan believes the visitors are a much stronger unit ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash.
Ireland were still finding their feet under Andy Farrell during their previous trip, as part of the Autumn Nations Cup in 2020, towards the end of their head coach’s first year in charge.
England ran out 18-7 winners that day, which came almost nine months on from them also emerging victorious in the most recent Championship fixture to be played at Twickenham between the two.
Ireland’s form has improved considerably since then and they head across to London off the back of a 57-6 victory against Italy and with their hopes of lifting the trophy still very much alive.
Keenan said: “We’ve taken so many strides, obviously a lot more experience in the group now.
“It was one of my first games, Caelan’s (Doris) first games. It was still a relatively early point in the new coaching staff’s campaign, so we’ve come on hugely.
“We’ve shown that in the autumn and in the last couple of games.
“I still don’t think we are at our potential and that’s the exciting part. There’s more in us. We’ve been showing it in glimpses, but it’s about consistency so, yeah, it’s exciting.”
Keenan could come back into Ireland’s line-up after being rested for the win against the Italians, in which his replacement Michael Lowry scored two tries.
On the subject of changes, there has been a large turnover of players on the English side since they defeated Ireland 24-12 by getting on top of them up front during the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.
For Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Jonny May, read Marcus Smith, Alex Dombrandt and Max Malins, but Keenan doesn’t feel their relative inexperience from two years ago makes them any easier a prospect.
He said: “It’s still going to be such a big challenge. I know (Farrell) is a key individual for them but the likes of Marcus Smith, Henry Slade, they are both brilliant footballers. They have been stepping up.
“There’s a few new young lads who have come into the frame over the last few years who have been going well for them and are exciting players.
“It’s never an easy one going over there – you can see that from recent results how difficult it is to go there and win, so we won’t underestimate the challenge in front of us.”