England and Ireland began the Six Nations' Championship with a bang, scoring seven tries between them in wins over Scotland at Twickenham and Wales in Cardiff respectively, to set up an explosive meeting in Dublin next Sunday.
"Clearly we will have to make a step up," said England's head coach, Stuart Lancaster, after a 38-18 rout of the Scots that featured a debut try by the Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees and 18 points kicked by man of the match Owen Farrell. "We have to make sure we're ready physically, mentally and tactically. Ireland are an outstanding side, the way they finished in the autumn and the way they played in the first half against Wales. We'll enjoy this win but then it's a case of knuckling down to what will be a massive challenge."
Twelvetrees may be dropped immediately for the trip to Dublin if Lancaster decides to recall Leicester's Manu Tuilagi, who is fit again from the ankle injury that allowed a rejigged midfield of Farrell, Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt steer England to four tries against the Scots' two.
At the Millennium Stadium, Ireland's eminent centre Brian O'Driscoll showed all his old powers, scoring one try and making another for the Munster wing Simon Zebo as Ireland built a 30-3 lead, with prop Cian Healy also scoring, then hung on to inflict an eighth straight loss on Wales's ailing Six Nations champions. Warren Gatland, the British and Irish Lions head coach, was looking on as Rob Howley endured a sixth defeat out of six as the stand-in Wales coach.
England have lost on their past four Six Nations visits to Dublin, including a 24-8 thumping under Martin Johnson in 2011. But Chris Ashton, who grabbed his 17th Test try yesterday, said: "A lot's happened between then and now and it's completely different. We're different even from a year ago when Stuart became coach. We have a lot of confidence from beating New Zealand in December, and everyone's a lot more comfortable." Asked whether the midweek jibes of "arrogance" from former Scotland coach Jim Telfer had played a part, Ashton said: "We kept quiet as we always do. We tried not to focus on Scotland but on ourselves."
The interim Scotland coach, Scott Johnson, gave a bleak assessment of a team going to Italy next week with five wins and a draw in 31 Six Nations matches. "We have got to get the contact area right. There's no panacea except good old-fashioned grunt. Fairytales don't come true."