Andy Farrell says his players are determined to help CJ Stander go out with a bang but insists Ireland should not require further incentive to beat England.
South Africa-born back-row Stander is set to win his 51st and final cap for his adopted country following the shock news of his impending retirement.
The 30-year-old, who has been named at blindside flanker for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Eddie Jones’ men, announced on Tuesday that he will call time on his career in the summer and return to his homeland for family reasons.
📄 𝗧𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝗔𝗻𝗻𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 🟢
Head Coach Andy Farrell has named his Ireland Match Day 23 for Saturday's #GuinnessSixNations clash against England at @AVIVAStadium 🙌
More: https://t.co/1vzKcJYlBx#ShoulderToShoulder #IrishRugby #IREvENG pic.twitter.com/lh2F9Nufjs
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 18, 2021
Head coach Farrell admits Ireland will have to produce their best display of the tournament to give Stander a memorable send-off should England replicate the standout performance they put in to beat France last weekend.
“If we need any more emotion to go into an England game, which is the last game of a competition, we’re in the wrong place anyway,” said Farrell.
“What we do want to do is enjoy the week with CJ, for CJ, and make sure that we put in a performance that he is happy to end his Ireland career on.
“He’s been in a great mood and he’s making sure that he is going to enjoy this weekend and we’re all going to be with him on that.
“We’re in determined mood to try and put a statement out there this weekend.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 16, 2021
“We’re up against a very good side who played extremely well last week. The standard of the French and the English game was top notch and I’m sure they are hoping to put a similar performance in.
“If that happens, we have to give an 80-minute performance that’s certainly the best of our competition so far.”
Munster man Stander has been virtually ever-present for Ireland since making his debut for Ireland in 2016, having qualified under residency rules the previous year.
Farrell, who has known of the players’ decision for a “few weeks”, has made six personnel changes to his starting XV.
Wing Jacob Stockdale and centre Bundee Aki will make their first appearances of this year’s Championship, while scrum-half Conor Murray, prop Dave Kilcoyne, and back-rows Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan have also been recalled.
Lock James Ryan, flanker Will Connors and centre Garry Ringrose each miss out through injury, with Cian Healy and Jamison Gibson-Park dropped to the bench and misfiring James Lowe left out altogether.
Ulster back Stockdale will play on the flank for his country for the first time since defeat at Twickenham last February, having recovered from a recent knee problem.
Farrell feels the 2018 Six Nations player of the tournament – who he utilised at full-back in the autumn – is itching to return.
“We all know how dangerous he is,” said Farrell.
“He makes things happen. He’s been out injured, he’s lost a bit of weight.
“He looks really sharp. He’s had a good few games (for Ulster) behind him now and he’s ready to go.”
Ireland are seeking a first win over Eddie Jones’ men since their Grand Slam glory of three years ago as they look to cement second spot at the end of an underwhelming campaign.
Farrell’s side bounced back from successive defeats to championship-chasing sides Wales and France with wins over Italy and Scotland.
Flanker Peter O’Mahony has to be content with a place on the bench on his return from a three-game ban after his red card in the opening-weekend loss to the Welsh.
Meanwhile, Munster team-mate Murray has reclaimed the number nine jersey from Gibson-Park to make his first appearance since the Cardiff loss six weeks ago following hamstring trouble.
Speaking about the decisions to drop New Zealand-born pair Lowe and Gibson-Park and recall Murray, Farrell said: “Conor’s had another week behind him training-wise, so he’s fresh and fit and raring to.
“He’s a big-game player.
“And, with James, there are a few things we’ve talked about over the Six Nations. He’s very young as far as international experience is concerned.
“He’s learnt a lot in his time in this Six Nations and we’re looking forward to him progressing in the big games back at Leinster in the coming weeks.”