IRELAND reckon they can smell blood already.
The Six Nations Grand Slam holders have sniffed out Owen Farrell as England’s hothead.
But fiery Farrell reckons they are on to the wrong scent.
Nothing will rattle him like his ex-Saracens team-mate and Ireland No 9 Peter Stringer predicts.
This grudge match should reach boiling point in Dublin tonight — but Farrell says his temperature will be as ice cold as the Irish air.
Now 27 and captaining his country, the fly-half cannot remember that kid who played with a rage against the regime.
Before leading his team out at the Aviva Stadium today, he said: “I can’t remember that person and I don’t need to.
“I’m happy with how I am and the way things are going. It’s up to Peter what he says. I don’t know how long ago I played with Strings, it seems a long time.
“I don’t know if he thinks I’ve not changed. He’s entitled to it. I’m competitive. I’ll look to do my job on the field and that’s all that matters.
“Everyone has changed, haven’t they? Everyone tries to get better, everyone tries to grow.
“It’s always a balance in terms of being clear-headed but aggressive and as combative as you need to be in these big games.”
Six years ago a 21-year-old Farrell steered England to victory by booting four penalties to Ronan O’Gara’s two.
Since then he has added 52 more England caps — and just two yellow cards — across 65 Tests in all.
So perhaps Stringer’s stinger was to deflect attention away from Ireland’s own volatile No 10 Johnny Sexton.
There is no doubt Farrell will be targeted but so will Sexton and half-back partner Conor Murray.
That is why Eddie Jones has picked a side of streetfighters to run riot and wreak havoc at a ground where England have failed to score a try for eight years.
Most Read In Sport
Lions Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler and Maro Itoje will lead the charge, with No 8 Billy Vunipola looking to become a world-beater again.
In midfield they have balanced the brute force and strength of Manu Tuilagi with the class of Henry Slade.
A back three of Elliot Daly, Jack Nowell and Jonny May know they are going to get peppered with high balls from Sexton and Murray.
Rookie rucker Tom Curry will have to skittle Peter O’Mahony off the ball at the breakdown. Nowell, as Jones’ much talked about ninth forward, will be there to lend a hand or two.
And in the scrum the two front rows packed full of Lions need no introduction. Likewise the coaching teams with a Farrell on either side — Owen at No 10 for England and Andy as Ireland boss Joe Schmidt’s No 2 — will not only divide two nations but also two households.
Prop Vunipola, who has worked with both, said: “I know how Andy works and what he expects from you. He’ll have them raring to go.
“We know how crucial the start is, especially away from home, and Andy is a great coach. I’ve been around Owen and him for about ten years. You want to play under the best coaches and he’s definitely one.”
England know what is coming — if they can stop the green machine then the popular thinking about the Six Nations, and this year’s World Cup, will be turned on its head.