Ireland go to Twickenham on Sunday with a chance of securing the Triple Crown, and the general mood around the camp is distinctly more upbeat than it was at the tail-end of the Joe Schmidt reign.
Two wins against Scotland and Wales have generated some momentum that will be useful if Ireland are to overcome Eddie Jones' England. The beaten World Cup finalists are themselves looking to restore the form we saw from them throughout 2019, which has been lacking so far in this Six Nations campaign.
Andy Farrell had initially named an unchanged starting XV from the Wales game, but plans have since changed with Iain Henderson having to drop out due to family reasons. In his place comes Devin Toner, who starts for the first time since being omitted from Joe Schmidt's World Cup squad.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 21, 2020
In the Virgin Media studios ahead of the weekend's action, Matt Williams and Shane Horgan were split on the significance of Toner's inclusion to the team's prospects against England.
Williams: Personally I would've selected Dev to start in this game, for a couple of reasons. His ability to set the maul is second to none, the Irish maul in the last two games has been poor until Dev comes onto the field.
If we are to do anything at Twickenham, we've got to have a solid maul. I think the extra weight he carries in the scrum will be a real benefit to Ireland because if you can disrupt England at the set play, you'll be in with a big shout. Those set plays are massive.
Horgan: I think I totally disagree with Matt on this point. I think that Iain Henderson, we saw glimpses of him in the last game about how he carries and how he offloads.
In a team that doesn't have a huge amount of carriers, we can't afford to be short of another one and Devin does have those qualities Matt, but I don't think they're enough to make up for what we will lose in terms of ball-carrying from Iain Henderson.
Matt Williams: I agree with you on that, he's not a noted ball carrier. I also think there's one other thing, I think Dev is really hurt for what's happened to him. He's been a great stalwart , he's got a point to prove. I think for one game here I'd be really interested to see his performance.
I expect that all that pain and embarrassment and humiliation that he's suffered by not being selected at the World Cup, he's gonna inflict on some white jerseys, so I'm looking forward to it. Shane's point is correct but we'll see whether the other stuff makes up for it.