Jamie George insists England are ready to launch their World Cup year in Dublin having faced down a “fight or flight” scenario during the autumn.
Eddie Jones oversaw a successful November series at Twickenham bookended by wins against South Africa and Australia and undermined only by a controversial defeat to New Zealand.
It reversed an alarming slump of five Test losses that included a worst Six Nations performance for over 30 years in the form of a fifth place finish.
Now, reinforced for their quest to seize Ireland’s title by the return from injury of powerful ball-carrying forwards Billy and Mako Vunipola and Joe Launchbury, George insists England have been hardened by their struggles.
“The losing run wasn’t the end of the world when it happened. We learned from it and moved on,” the British and Irish Lions hooker said.
“Genuinely, there was a huge sense of excitement going into the autumn. It was the most excited I have been because we were up against it.
“It was tough but it’s either fight or flight. The group certainly dug in and we got a lot better in that period.
“I have been in Saracens teams that have lost a few on the bounce as well. The important thing is coming out of the side of it.
“I think sometimes there is a snowball effect of negativity – the media get on your back a little bit, fans aren’t as keen to watch you play.
“Now we’re in a much more positive place. The way that we performed in the autumn was almost as good as we have played for a long time.
“Hopefully we can just keep building that momentum and there is no bigger test than Ireland away. Winning in Dublin would be a great start to 2019.
“Ireland are exactly the type of challenge that we want because arguably they are the best team in the world and are playing on their home patch.
“If we manage to come away with a win it would put us in a brilliant position for the rest of the tournament because it is about building momentum through back to back wins.”
England’s pre-Six Nations tournament training camp in Portugal has begun in earnest with George revealing one of the methods used by Jones to prepare for the likelihood of the title showdown against Ireland being played in the rain.
On Thursday, dimple-free balls were used to make handling more challenging and to add to the difficulty, Jones also doused them in water.
“We always do alternative training. Eddie likes to mix things up and tries to test us. I love it,” George said.
“Line-out throwing with a soapy ball is very enjoyable. It’s good because it really does test your skills.
“Eddie has four balls in his hand and just launches you a wet one. Sometimes it’s dipped in a bucket. It’s tough, but it’s good.
“If you do it in that situation then you will be able to do it when you get a dry ball with pimples on it.”
Blindside flanker Brad Shields and wing Joe Cokanasiga are injury concerns leading into the Aviva Stadium title clash, but otherwise England are in reasonable shape.
It is hoped Shields and Cokanasiga will resume full training next week following their struggles with respective side and knee injuries, while Owen Farrell is making good progress in his recovery from a thumb problem.