England are next up for Ireland at Croke Park on Saturday, February 28, and already the hype is building as Declan Kidney's side look to remain on course for the Grand Slam. The second ever clash at Croker between the two countries is shaping up to be as just as interesting as the game two years ago. The home team hammered the visitors with a record 43-13 win that day, and Ireland will again start as hot favorites following England's defeat in Wales last Saturday. But Irish winger Luke Fitzgerald and prop Marcus Horan are both urging caution against an England side undergoing a transformation under new coach Martin Johnson. "England are always hard to play against and they've been getting a bit of stick from their own media at home," said Leinster youngster Fitzgerald, a two try hero in Rome on Sunday. "But I can see from the bits and bobs I saw on Saturday against Wales that they look to be really imposing and a really tough team to break down. "England are very well organized and they mix that with some fantastic finishers. They have some good wingers in Paul Sackey and Mark Cueto out wide, so they have a good blend and will be really tough to beat. "I thought they were unlucky in patches against Wales. If one or two things had gone their way then they may have come away with a win." Kidney can already see signs of the Johnston effect on the England team after studying Saturday's defeat to reigning Six Nations champions Wales. "They've really come on. It's important with the new agreement that they have a week off and it gives Martin a chance they didn't have heretofore to improve for two weeks' time. They'll have learned from watching us in Rome," said Kidney. "Ireland vs. England games you look forward to in a kind of masochistic way. You know how good they are. The size of the challenge has improved enormously and they'll be eyeing us as a target." The Irish and the Welsh are the only sides with 100% records intact after the opening two games, but Munster prop Horan believes England will provide stern opposition. "England are a good side, have always been," warned Horan. "Their game against Wales was a very exciting match, free-flowing. It's always a huge challenge against England. "I wasn't surprised at how well they performed against Wales. The Six Nations always throws up that intensity. "They were written off but our front row was written off against Italy. There was a lack of respect during the week. I don't know whether it came from the press or the team, but I've had it all my career and try to use it in a positive manner. "That sort of negativity rises teams, it's a red rag to a bull and that's the way I see the criticism affecting England." The in-form Brian O'Driscoll, pushing hard for a Lions start in South Africa this summer on current championship form, is also wary of the England threat as Ireland lead the Six Nations table on points difference from the Welsh. "We're where we want to be," stated O'Driscoll. "We've played two games and won two games. Any time you come to Rome and score 38 points you'd be happy. "We're pleased but there's plenty to work on, which is a good place to be. There's still a lot of graft to put in before the England game."
Massive, record-setting waves recorded off of Irish coast during Ophelia